Equality also means that European Dutch are welcome in BES

During the past 50 years Antillean policy has been to keep Dutch nationals from Holland (‘European Dutch’ nationals) out, treating them like foreigners basically.
This was all done quite legally, even with Holland’s consent. European Dutch people like to dispute this, but art. 3, section 1, sub f of the Kingdom Sta-tute clearly states that ‘supervision’ on [the making of] ‘general rules regarding admission and expulsion of Dutch nationals’ is a so-called ‘Kingdom affair’ (‘Koninkrijksaangelegenheid’), meaning that Holland has a decisive say when any of these rules or laws are enacted.

Admission has always been a one-sided affair. Antillean Dutch nationals were free to migrate to Holland, but European Dutch nationals had no free right of entry into the Antilles. The truth is that the Antillean admission policy toward European Dutch nationals was plainly discriminatory. Even Dutch military personnel, who are supposed to defend the Antilles in the event of an attack, were not welcome in the Antilles. They too were submitted to restrictive immigration rules.

How could this be?

Why Holland appro-ved such blatantly discriminatory rules against its own people can only be understood within the context of the time-frame. The Antillean admission rules were introduced during the beginning of the sixties, a period of intense decolonization. At the time the Antilles still had the intention to seek full independence from Holland. So it was agreed that Holland would allow the Antilles time to prepare itself for this major step. Holland actively helped the Antilles and sometimes even encouraged the islands to opt for independence (some critics would say Holland tried to ‘dump them’), but in the end independence was never sought.

During this period of preparation for independence it was not unreasonable to restrict migration from Holland to the Antilles, whereas those Antilleans who migrated to Holland could be absorbed. However, when during the eighties and nineties it became clear that independence was definitively off the political agenda, this situation had to change. For it is discriminatory and against basic human rights to restrict free migration for nationals within one country. Internationally, the Kingdom of the Netherlands (which includes the Antilles and Aruba) is one nation. It is not 3 nations, despite the misnomer ‘country’ used to denote the Antilles and Aruba.

As a consequence of the changed political situation the strict admission rules in the Antilles and Aruba against European Dutch nationals have been eased, but not repealed. To obtain admission even today they have to prove that they have a sufficient source of income, a home and no criminal record. Such restrictions are not in force for Antilleans in Holland.

This discrimination cannot continue in BES

One consequence of integration into Holland and full equality between Dutch and BES citizens is, of course, that this discrimination against European Dutch nationals cannot continue.

Is this absolute? Well, yes and no. We have already seen that equality itself is not absolute. Art. 1 of the Dutch constitution (‘grondwet’) states that equal cases shall be treated equally, but unequal cases shall be treated unequally as justified by their difference. For instance, a mentally retarded person in some respects has a right to preferential treatment.

So will the existing admission rules be repealed?

What will actually happen we don’t know. We (ARCO) believe and promote that the existing rules on admission against European Dutch nationals should be repealed when BES becomes a part of Holland. This is a logical consequence of the equality principle. However, it is imaginable that Saba might wish to seek recognition as a Nature Reserve. In such a case the total number of residents allowed to reside on the island could be mandatorily limited. But even then Dutch nationals would have preference over all foreigners.

In other words, ecological reasons could be construed as a ‘legitimate objective’ justifying discrimation in the matter of admission, provided the discriminatory rules are proportionate and effective. This is the way the Dutch Supreme Court sees it. And they have the last word.

Bonaire and Statia

Bonaire has stated it seeks economic growth without offence to its nature and culture. We understand that Statia has also opted for a growth model. This would mean that Bonaire and Statia cannot maintain restrictive rules of admission against European Dutch nationals. If we want equality, we must grant equality to European Dutch nationals as well.

We can probably still restrict admission of non-Dutch EU-citizens. Even this is debatable, but for the time being we assume this possibilty exists.


Now the question arises: Is this not some form of neocolonialism, all these hordes of European Dutch invading our islands? Well, the answer plainly is: ‘No!’. It is a consequence of the principle of equality. During colonial times European Dutch people enjoyed preferential rights. There was discrimination against the locals. But they have no preferential rights anymore, so we simply cannot deny them equal rights. Denying them equal rights would be reverse dsicrimination.

We may have mixed feelings toward them (as they may have toward us), but that does not justify legalized discrimination. We just have to change our mindset and welcome them, or learn to live with them at least. If we do not want to do that, we should shut up about equal rights.