National Ombudsman received more complaints from islands

The National Ombudsman in 2021 received 206 complaints from Carib­bean Netherlands residents, which is forty per cent more compared to 2020, when 145 complaints were filed by people living in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

The vast majority of the complaints in 2021, 145 in total, were filed digitally. During the physical consul­tation hours of the team of the National Ombudsman in Bonaire in 2021, more than 80 questions and complaints were handled, it was stated in the 2021 annual report of the Ombudsman and Children’s Ombudsman, which was pre­sented to the Second Cham­ber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the National Ombudsman and Children’s Ombudsman were only able to hold four consul­tation hours during a single visit to Bonaire after the sum­mer of 2021.

“Physical presence on the islands seems to remain necessary in order to reach persons in vulnerable posi­tions,” it was stated in the 2021 annual report. Saba and St. Eustatius were not visited last year, but a team came to both islands in February 2022 to hold consultation hours. Normally, a team of the Om­budsman goes to the islands two to three times per year.

Of the 206 complaints that were filed in 2021, 59 com­plaints regarded the public entity Bonaire, eight com­plaints were filed about the Public Entity St. Eustatius and three about the Public Entity Saba.

The majority of the com­plaints in the Caribbean Netherlands are solved through intervention. The National Ombudsman pub­lished three reports in 2021 about the Social Affairs and Labour SZW Unit of the Caribbean Netherlands Na­tional Government Service RCN, the health insurance office ZVK in Bonaire and the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force KPCN.

The National Ombudsman, partly together with the Chil­dren’s Ombudsman, carried out investigations in 2019, 2020 and 2021 to look at the extent and consequences of poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands.

The focus was on three target groups: senior citi­zens, adolescents and single parents. The reports about the first target group have already been published. The investigation results about the experiences of single par­ents and children who live around or below the poverty line will be published shortly.

The National Ombudsman in 2021 investigated the treat­ment of Venezuelan refugees in Bonaire. Following con­cerns about the providing of information to request asy­lum or a regular residency permit, the unavailability of shelter and accessible legal assistance, and the proce­dures surrounding the “vol­untary” return to Venezuela, the Ombudsman decided to carry out an investigation.

Collaboration in the im­migration sector, informa­tion about residency permits and labour conditions were looked at. In 2022, the Na­tional Ombudsman will use the results of this investiga­tion to come with recom­mendations for government about basic needs, legal assis­tance and information about rights and obligations.

Foreigners’ detention will not be included in this inves­tigation because this will be done in an independent in­vestigation as the first part in a multi-annual investigation into the detention circum­stances in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. The other Ombudsmen in the kingdom will take part in this broader investigation.

In December 2021, the Na­tional Ombudsman organ­ised two round-table talks with stakeholders to discuss follow-up to the 2020 report about the challenges that Dutch Caribbean students face in the Netherlands. The findings about this follow-up and about what still needs to be done to improve things for these students will be pub­lished in 2022.

In 2021, National Ombuds­man Reinier van Zutphen paid a visit to Bonaire to gather information from stakeholders for the confer­ence which will take place in Curacao late 2022. During this conference, the relation­ship between the citizen and government in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom will play a central role. The prepara­tory talks for this conference also take place in St. Eusta­tius and Saba in 2022.

Van Zutphen also paid a visit in 2021 to St. Maarten Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel. The results of the re­port about Dutch Caribbean students in the Netherlands were discussed with Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Rodolphe Samuel.

The National Ombudsman emphasised that collabora­tion between the govern­ments in the kingdom was vital to properly arrange the logistics for the students in the Netherlands, and to bet­ter prepare them for their studies.

Late November 2021, the Ombudsmen of the king­dom met in St. Maarten. The Ombudsmen talked about further strengthening their collaboration to do more investigations together, and they discussed how to make it possible for Aruba to get its own Ombudsman.

The Children’s Ombudsman published a report in 2021 about the quality of life of children in Bonaire, St. Eu­statius and Saba. Children feel happy with very little on the islands, yet they are worried about poverty, child abuse and education.

Children’s Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer paid a visit to Bonaire in October 2021 to meet with several or­ganisations, youngsters, par­ents and professionals. She visited the guided living facil­ity of Care and Youth Carib­bean Netherlands which was established after a report of the National Ombudsman and Children’s Ombudsman about poverty among adoles­cents.

The Daily Herald.

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