House votes on regulations for older Surinamese without residence permits

Forty Surinamese expectantly board a shiny white bus on Tuesday afternoon. The trip goes from Amsterdam to The Hague, where the House of Representatives will vote this afternoon on a motion that could drastically change the lives of these Surinamese. Lives that have been going on for decades in the shadows.

As soon as the bus starts moving, Jiske Castien from ASKV, an organization that helps undocumented immigrants and which organized the bus, takes the microphone. “Just your attention,” he calls. “Henri Bontenbal of the CDA filed a motion last week to reach a settlement for you.” He explains that they will attend the vote together in the public gallery of the House of Representatives. ‘It’s an exciting day!’

About the Author
Marjolein van de Water is a reporter for by Volkskrant and writes about asylum, migration, religion and multicultural society. Previously he was a correspondent in Latin America.

The forty occupants are the so-called Old Dutch. They were born in Suriname when that country was still colonized by the Netherlands and, for various reasons, did not apply for a Dutch passport in time after its independence in 1975. They often came to the Netherlands in the 1980s and 1990s and have lived since then. illegally in the country. Precise figures are lacking, but there are at least eight hundred Surinamese in this situation.

The group went unnoticed for a long time. “But now they are getting older and need more and more care,” says Frederiek de Vlaming of Regenboog Groep, an organization that offers shelter in Amsterdam, the city where most of the former undocumented Dutch residents reside. A year ago, State Secretary Van der Burg (Asylum) devised a plan to grant this group residency status and therefore access to social housing and care. But before the House could agree to this, the cabinet fell.

more pleasant life

Bontenbal’s motion should breathe new life into the plan. “It is important that it is on the political agenda,” says Castién into the microphone. “But if there is a vote in favour, it will still be exciting to know whether the government will accept it.” Those present nod in agreement. They know that this dossier, and with it their chance for a more pleasant life, will soon end up in the hands of PVV member Marjolein Faber, the future Minister for Asylum and Migration.

George Robinson Ost, 70, is sitting at the back of the bus with a plastic bag of currant and banana buns within his reach. Ost has a very cheerful outlook: “Everything comes by itself,” he says in a tone that leaves no room for doubt. His children and grandchildren have Dutch passports, but in order not to be a burden on them, Ost sleeps in the homeless shelter. “I lived on the streets for years,” he says. ‘But I also work as a gardener for individuals. And I’m a musician, I sing at birthday parties.’

Ost sits next to an equally undocumented childhood friend who has dressed up nicely for the occasion. Satisfied, the friend shows off his shiny black shoes and accepts compliments on his blue suit. The two men say that when they were children they had to learn the names of the Wadden Islands at school. “No one in Paramaribo knew the place names of the interior of Suriname,” Ost says, laughing.

Working in health

When the bus arrives in The Hague, Gerry Venghaus (57) jumps out of his seat. “Trust in God,” he shouts. There are sounds of approval. “God has touched the hearts of these politicians, they will definitely vote for them.” As the group walks toward the House building, Venghaus explains that he also sleeps at the homeless shelter. ‘I came to the Netherlands in 2000 to take care of my sick father. If I get a residence permit, I would like to work in the healthcare sector.’

The group causes a small traffic jam at the public entrance to the House of Representatives. “She had never been here,” says Lucinda, already excited, who prefers that her last name not appear in the newspaper. This 56-year-old Surinamese woman has also dressed up and her dark eyes water under her large curled eyelashes. “Everything will be fine, right?” Some people get caught in the revolving door in the crowd, there is some confusion with the mandatory lockers, but then everyone is prepared.

Before ascending the stairs to the public gallery, they meet Henri Bontenbal in the lobby. They hold hands and take selfies. The CDA politician says he has a majority in favor of the motion, “even the VVD and the BBB agree” and is hopeful that future minister Faber will present the plan: “These are people who were once Dutch” , Explain. his optimism.

don’t be afraid anymore

There is a crowd in the stands, movements happen quickly. The faces of the Surinamese are concentrated. When the motion is approved, women fall into each other’s arms crying, men exuberantly pat each other on the back. “I told you,” Venghaus says quietly, his eyes shining. “I knew God would do his work. He will also touch Faber’s heart.

It may not even be necessary. Last week, Van der Burg told Bontenbal during the debate that if the motion was passed, it would be up to the next cabinet to address the plan. But after the vote a rumor suddenly emerged that Van der Burg wanted to do it himself at the last minute: Faber took office on Tuesday. Although the Secretary of State’s spokesperson cannot confirm this rumor, it completes the festive atmosphere.

“Soon we won’t have to fear the police anymore,” says Jayant Ganesh, 53, who spent six months in an immigration detention center years ago because he couldn’t identify himself. “Then we can work blankly and integrate and…” he stops in the middle of his sentence. “I’m actually already integrated,” he says. “I was born Dutch and that’s how I feel.”

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