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.