Caribbean students (Freemovers) get in trouble in the Netherlands

POSTED: 09/29/14 12:25 AM

ROTTERDAM – Caribbean youngsters who move on their own to the Netherlands for study often encounter all sorts of problems, Jamila Baaziz reports on Caribisch Netwerk. They do not know very well what life in the Netherlands looks like, and they get into trouble with housing, money and education.

“People promise you a better future in the Netherlands and say, come to the Netherlands, I will help you. But in reality you have to take care almost everything yourself,” says Ruthmila*, who moved to Rotterdam from Curacao.

In 2013, 19-year-old Ruthmila moved to the Netherlands for a secondary vocational training in care and health in Rotterdam. “With hindsight I was not well prepared. And you have no father or mother near you for support.” During the first months, Ruthmila lived with an aunt, but that pleased her less than she had expected. “She was a little bit surprised by my arrival. Now I have my own room and I am not depending on anyone. That is better.”

Her girlfriend Julisa lived with several family members and friends, but the 18-year old quickly got fed up with not having a housekey of her own. “It is a nuisance to stand in front of a closed door especially because I have a child.” Her housing problems also resulted in absence from her studies. “I had to find housing in a place where I could register. With a lot of effort, I found a room. Only after that I was able to settle everything.”

Every year approximately a couple of hundred Caribbean youngsters like Ruthmila come on their own to the Netherlands to study. They are so-called freemovers. Student support organizations like S4 (St. Maarten) and SSC (Curacao) take care of the supervision of university- and HBO-students (higher vocational education). They mediate for housing, registration and other practical matters. But for MBO-students (secondary vocational education) such supervision does not exist.

“Things go especially wrong with low-educated youngsters,” says Marie-Claire de Pool. She is a supervisor at De Jonge Krijger (The Young Warrior) and specialized in supervising Caribbean youngsters that go through tough times in the Netherlands. “They do not know that they are not always able to register at the address of the family members where they go and live. This is the reason they do not get a citizens service number and therefore they are unable to register for a study, to open a bank account, to get insurance or to get a job.”

By the time the youngsters have their affairs in order, they are already indebted,” De Pool says. Repaying those debts is not easy for students. Ruthmila would love to have a side job to generate some more income but that is complicated because her Dutch is not very good. “The Netherlands is expensive,” Ruthmila warns. “A debt of one euro quickly becomes a debt of a hundred euro.”

In the meantime, she has learned to pay important things always first. “The first thing I pay is my rent, because that is the roof over my head.” Living on Dutch study financing is not a luxury. “If I do not have enough money, I sometimes have to choose: paying for my healthcare or eat? Sometimes, that insurance will have to wait.”

De Pool often sees youngsters struggle with getting their affairs in order. “They should know their rights and their obligations master the Dutch language and learn how to budget to stay out of debt. If they do not manage to do that, studying or working becomes impossible. Then they are only busy surviving.” The consequences of these situations are delays, dropout and absence from study.

Exact figures about freemovers are not available, because there is not a single office that registers these youngsters as a group. This complicates efforts to get insight in the whole group and to offer supervision. The Minister Plenipotentiary of Curacao, Marvelyne Wiels, launched in May of this year a website for freemovers, but she does not want to provide details about the number of youngsters that visit the site. “Dozens of youngsters have asked for more information,” is all she wanted to say.

The solution for the problem of the freemovers is according to De pool in Curacao. “I would love to see that the government, the population and everyone in Curacao begins working together to establish a good approach for these youngsters, to make sure that they are well-prepared when they opt to go to the Netherlands to study.”

  • For reasons of privacy, Ruthmila and Julisa are not the real names of the two teenagers Caribisch Netwerk interviewed for this story.



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