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Soualiga Newsday Focus (1474)

Over 1,000 refugee children vanish from Dutch centres in five years

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – MPs have called for a full investigation after it emerged over 1,000 refugee children, mostly teenagers disappeared from protected refugee centres in the Netherlands between 2013 and 2017. 

The figures come from research by radio programme Argos which has been looking into the trafficking of young refugees, particularly those of Vietnamese origin, the NRC reported at the weekend. 

Over the past five years, at least 60 Vietnamese children have vanished without trace from the protected housing where they lived because of fears they were at risk of being trafficked, Argos said. 

‘We are talking about extremely vulnerable children,’ Labour MP Attje Kuiken said. ‘We have been asking for action on this for years… there must be an investigation to find out what is going on and the underlying human smuggling networks.’ 

Cannabis 

The Argos investigation, a joint probe with Britain’s Observer newspaper, said officials fear most of them end up in the UK working on cannabis plantations and in nail salons. 

In one case, a 17-year-old Vietnamese boy managed to seek the help of British police after being brought into the country from a refugee centre in the south of the Netherlands, the Observer said. 

The Observer said internal emails from the Dutch refugee agency COA, and the police show the lengths children will go to escape from the protected shelters, of which there are two in the Netherlands. 

Sometimes they study maps, sharpen knives to open windows and disrupt fire alarms, the paper said. 

Exploitation 

Herman Bolhaar, the Dutch rapporteur on human trafficking, said there is enough evidence that children are being exploited and that the government should be doing more to protect them and to find out what has happened to them. 

The NRC said last October that 360 refugee minors had disappeared from secure housing in 2017. Most of the children who disappeared came from Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Albania, Eritrea, Syria and Vietnam. 

More than half were under the age of 16. In the late 2000s, over 100 Nigeria girls disappeared from Dutch refugee centres, several of whom were later found in Italian brothels. (DutchNews)

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Dutch more worried about polarised opinions in society, says study

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – People are increasingly worried about polarisation in Dutch society, according to a report from the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP). 

The research, part of an ongoing litmus test of opinion in the Netherlands, has found a greater sense of opposition and polarisation, ‘tension’ between ethnic groups, rich and poor, and a concern that social media increase divisions. 

Paul Dekker, SCP programme leader in values and meaning, told the NOS broadcaster that these worries may not actually represent increasing divisions – even though people have this impression. 

‘There is a very strong angst about a sense of society falling apart and groups standing in greater opposition against each other,’ he said. ‘One example is the polarised debate about Zwarte Piet, or Christmas, and also whether things are traditionally Dutch or not.’ 

‘But when we look at how opinions have developed, we have not seen that they have got more extreme or more opposed over the decades.’ 

The research showed that 76% of the people surveyed believe there is a great deal of opposition between rich and poor people, as well as chasms between people based on education, ethnic background and different politics. 

But although people were more likely to hate others for their point of view (16% compared to 13% in 2012), this sense of division was even greater in 1970 (19%). 

Seven in 10 people surveyed also thought that social media increase divisions, while about half believed the traditional media do this. But according to Dekker, all of these media could be part of the solution. 

‘It would be good if the media could temper their tone in discussions and present more of a debate rather than statements that just confirm people’s opinions so they stay in a bubble,’ he told the NOS. 

People were also less positive about the Dutch economy and concerned about climate change policy according to the survey, which is held quarterly. Yesterday Dutch statistics office the CBS reported that in 2018, nine in 10 people surveyed were happy with their lives and 56% were optimistic about how things are going in the country. However, 35% were pessimistic. (DutchNews)

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Prison service, clinic slammed for failures in Anne Faber murder case

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch prison service and a psychiatric clinic have been slammed for their roles in the treatment of a convicted sex offender who went on to rape and murder a young woman who was out riding her bike. 

Michael P was found guilty last year of killing Anne Faber, who disappeared while cycling in woods near Utrecht at the end of 2017. He attacked Anne near to a psychiatric clinic where he was undergoing treatment in preparation for his return to society after serving several years in jail for rape and robbery. 

The report, compiled by justice and health ministry inspectors, said the clinic near the village of Den Dolder was not aware P had been jailed for sex crimes because P had refused to allow the prison where he spent several years to pass on the information. 

The clinic was only aware of his aggression and drugs abuse, and he had only been treated for these conditions during the years he spent in jail, the report said. In the years P was treated, no-one ever looked at the risks attached to his behaviour or if he was likely to reoffend, the report said. 

No assessment was made about whether he posed a danger to the outside world and he was allowed to visit the village of Den Dolder every day without supervision, the report said. ‘The report shows that granting inmates leave to go outside was a routine, administrative issue rather than a well-considered decision,’ the report says. 

Violence 

P was sentenced to 28 years in jail to be followed by time in a psychiatric prison for the rape and murder of Anne. The court described him at the time as a man without scruples and who used disproportional violence. 

In 2012, P was jailed for 11 years for the brutal rape of two teenage girls and for a string of robberies but was not been sent to a psychiatric prison for treatment because he had refused to cooperate with a psychiatric assessment prior to his trial. 

Justice minister Sander Dekker said in a reaction that the report is painful, and its conclusions are clear. ‘In the case of Michael P, the government failed to protect society,’ Dekker said. Officials would do all they can to make sure that such mistakes are never made again, he said.(DutchNews)

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Controls have begun. 138 vehicles checked 21 confiscated

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Sint Maarten Police conducted traffic controls on the AJC Brouwers road in the parking lot opposite the ACE mega store on Wednesday 28thMarch 2019.

During the controls a total of 138 cars were stopped, 21 cars were confiscated and fined for not having paid their 2019 road tax, two were fined for not having vehicle insurance. 22 drivers were in violation of the tint laws and had to remove the tint on the spot, and six drivers had to remove the covers that were blocking the visibility of their number plates. 

If drivers do not wish to place the new “Carnival plates“on their vehicle they are urged to place the sticker issued by the Census office in the front windshield of the vehicle as well as have the new plates in the vehicle at all times.  

Drivers who opt to place the sticker in their windshield must have their 2018 plates on the front bumper and rear of the car. 

Motorist who have not yet paid their 2019 motor vehicle tax are now at risk of being fined during controls which have begun as of Thursday 21stMarch 2019. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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The Netherlands is a tax haven alongside Ireland, Malta and Cyprus, say MEPs

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Members of the European parliament have voted to include the Netherlands, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus on the official EU tax haven black list. 

However, the motion, proposed by Dutch Labour MEP Paul Tang, will not have any effect on the listing because members states have to unanimously approve every inclusion, the Financieele Dagblad said on Wednesday. 

The official EU blacklist of places considered to facilitate tax evasion now comprises 15 countries, after 10, including Aruba, were added earlier this month. However, Tang said this did not go far enough, and referred to research last year by the European Commission which said the Netherlands cooperated with ‘aggressive tax planning’. 

Tang’s motion was passed by 408 to 205. Dutch junior finance minister Menno Snel said in a reaction that he was astonished by the vote. ‘The Netherlands has a leading position in the battle against international tax evasion,’ he told the FD.  (DutchNews)

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Pupils urged to report ‘left wing indoctrination’ to Forum hotline

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – School pupils and students are being urged to report ‘left wing indoctrination’ in the classroom to a special hotline set up by the nationalist political party Forum voor Democratie. 

The hotline was launched by the party’s scientific institute, shortly before the party’s strong performance in last week’s provincial elections and was condemned by ministers during a debate on Wednesday. 

‘In the Dutch education system, pupils and students are being indoctrinated with the favourite political ideas of their teachers by the conveyor belt,’ the Renaissance Institute states on its website. 

‘It is happening in both subtle and less subtle ways and more and more pupils and parents have had enough,’ the website states. Pupils are being urged to email the institute their experiences with ‘biased exam questions, one-sided text books, oikophobia projects and partisan teachers.’ 

Oikophobia in a political context refers to political ideologies that are said to repudiate one’s own culture and laud others. Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said the initiative was both distasteful and detrimental to the safety of teaching staff. 

Nevertheless, ‘it is up to the schools how to deal with this,’ she said. The Renaissance Institute says it wants to produce an inventory of left-wing indoctrination in the classroom and to find out how often it happens. 

‘Pupils don’t have to film their teachers,’ spokesman Rob Rooken told RTL Nieuws. ‘There are all sorts of ways which they can make reports.’ ‘We are not going to publish the names of teachers,’ he said. ‘We are simply compiling a list.’ 

Support 

The initiative is supported by the anti-immigration PVV which also claims schools are indoctrinating children with left-wing ideas. ‘It is a very good idea. Actually, it was mine,’ MP Harm Beertema said. 

Arnhem trade school teacher Tommy Derksen has already reported himself via an open letter to Forum. ‘I don’t want anyone else to have to take the trouble to report me – so I am making this registration voluntarily,’ he said on Twitter. 

‘History teaches us what telling tales and intimidation leads to.’ At the same time, Van Engelshoven has urged school directors to do more to support teaching staff who are outed on social media by pupils. 

In one recent case, a teaching assistant was suspended after describing the prophet Mohamed as a paedophile.
(DutchNews)

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CCSU cannot approve draft amendments to remuneration rules for civil servants. Submits a counterproposal for approval

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Tuesday March 26th, 2019, the Committee of Civil Servants Unions (CCSU), formally known as the GOA submitted a counterproposal to the draft amendment to the National decree on remuneration for civil servants to the honorable Minister of General Affairs, Mrs. Leona Romeo-Marlin.

The CCSU informed the Prime Minister that the CCSU“could not approve the draft amendments to the National decree on remuneration for civil servants as submitted.” 

The members of CCSU are of the opinion that both the current Remuneration decree and the draft amendment proposed by Government do not do justice to civil servants. In particular, were it pertains to the “aanloopschaal”, the remuneration criteria when being promoted and child allowance. 

Both the Wicsu-psu and the Witu are of the opinion that the benefits are outdated and do not reflect the current Sint Maarten economy and labor market.

Based on article 112h of the “Landsverordening materieel ambtenarenrecht” (Lma), the CCSU has to provide its approval on any matter pertaining to changes to the remuneration rules for civil servants. 

The CCSU received a draft amendment document to review and approve on October 16th2018. The CCSU members held a number of consultation meetings with government in October and November of last year in an effort to seek clarity as to the reasons for the proposed changes and also discuss their discontent with the different challenges civil servants are experiencing with the current rules on remuneration.

After the sessions with government, the Wicsu-psu union (one of the two union members of the CCSU) organized sessions with their members to discuss the amendments proposed by government. 

The Witu encouraged their members to take part in these sessions. Throughout the sessions members got the opportunity to express their opinions. The main view coming from these discussions was that the rules were outdated and unfair considering Sint Maarten’s current economy. 

The Wicsu-psu submitted in January 2019 a counterproposal to the amendments to the CCSU for approval. The Wicsu-psu and the Witu approved the counterproposal on March 19th2019. 

In its counterproposal, the CCSU proposes a number of amendments to the National decree on remuneration for civil servants. Two important counterproposals are: the increase of the child allowance and the introduction of a minimum salary promotion for candidates when applying for positions internally.

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Organic food is getting cheaper, sometimes beats A brands

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Organic food has gone down in price compared with ordinary foodstuffs and in some cases may be cheaper than A brands, according to new research by the consumers organisation Consumentenbond. 

The research will be published on Tuesday and is previewed in Monday’s AD. The researchers compared 115 different products bought in 13 supermarkets and four organic food shops all over the country. 

They found supermarket group Dirk is cheapest when it comes to organic food, with prices 13% below the average. Prices in specialist organic shops were between 15% and 28% higher than average, the AD said. 

However, five years ago, organic products were on average twice as expensive as non-organic food, and the difference has now slipped to 63%. 

And in some cases, supermarket organic food is cheaper than branded products – for example, Albert Heijn’s own brand organic orange juice and milk. 

Dutch consumers spent €1.5bn on organic food in 2017, with spending on eggs and dairy products increasing most, according to figures from sector organisation Bionext. (DutchNews)

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First SMART Speakers Announced

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - The Saint Martin / Sint Maarten Annual Regional Tradeshow (SMART) 2019 is to provide 15 different speakers, workshops and masterclasses, as to assist the Northeastern Caribbean tourism sector with an overview of the latest developments in tourism. Innovations from both sides of the island, the Caribbean, the United States and Europe will be highlighted in a parallel track to the many business meetings going on during SMART.  

It was decided in 2018 by the four SMART partners L’Association des Hoteliers de Saint Martin, Saint Martin Tourism Office, in conjunction with the Sint Maarten Tourist Bureau and St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association, that innovation should be a key theme to facilitate the best possible comeback of the destination. 

Within the workshop settings, managers and entrepreneurs are offered expert workshops on how to further improve their operations. Topics will be amongst others on social media strategy, deployment of technology, revenue management, the importance of customer reviews, occupancy strategies and customer engagement, increasing customer satisfaction, digital marketing trends and economic & environmental practices – (the value of being a ‘Green’ business in the Caribbean.

Workshops from abroad will be provided by amongst others NorthAmerican companies like Avvio, Flip.to, STR, TravelClick and TripAdvisor. Caribbean innovations will come amongst others from BookSXM, Caribious, InspireFocus and ShowMeCaribbean. Experts like EPIC and hospitality institutions will provide insights on how to make operations more sustainable. Each workshop will take place twice a day, giving delegates more chances and space in their SMART-agenda to attend the workshops of their interest. 

The tradeshow will be held on the 21st to 23rd of May 2019 at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Casino and Spa. We are expecting numerous Tour Operators, Travel Agents, Travel Writers and Event Planners from the US, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to attend this important event. In previous years, SMART featured suppliers from Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Barthelemy, St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Maarten-St. Martin.

Interested companies can take up contact with the SMART project office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +1 721-542-0108. More information can be found at shta.com/SMART or visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/smartsintmaarten.

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SMIA Elects New Board

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - The St. Maarten Insurance Association (SMIA) have elected a new board following their recent elections last week.

The incoming Board is now headed by President; Eric Ellis; Managing Director of NAGICO Insurances, Secretary Cynthia Rotsburg; Branch Manager of Caribbean Alliance and Treasurer; Marc Grooneveldt.

SMIA according to the incoming President; The objective of SMIA, is responsible for promoting the general interest of the Insurance business and its members on St. Maarten. 

Ellis is who no stranger to the Board of SMIA is one of the cofounding members, past Chairman and recently served as an advisor. In his new role as President; he said under his leadership; the association will seek to advance and uphold the good reputation and conduct of the insurance industry on the island.

All local Insurance companies (Life and Non-life) are members of SMIA. They are: NAGICO Insurances, Ennia Insurance, Guardian Life, Gulf Insurance, ICW Insurance (ICWI), NC Wathey Insurances, Sagicor and Capital Life.

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