From the islands to Kadera in the Netherlands – relocation of domestic violence victims

Relocating from one of the six islands to the Netherlands involves a lot. In terms of practical arrangements, but also when it comes to differences in culture, language, and climate. Linda Wellinga, Access and Programmes Coordinator of Kadera Approach to Domestic Violence in the Netherlands, explains how this kind of relocation of domestic violence victims is organised and all the things involved.

‘Kadera has different types of shelters in Zwolle and Enschede,’ Linda explains. ‘First, clients enter the crisis shelter, where they stay for an average of six to eight weeks. From there, they move on to intensive care for a duration of about six to nine months. Then they can move on to assisted living. Kadera also offers ambulatory care and an aware system, where the victim of domestic violence always has an alarm button in their pocket. There are also emergency shelter beds, intended for clients in acutely unsafe situations. There are also shelters for men and for young mothers.’

Clients who come from one of the six islands because they are not safe on their own island are always first admitted to the crisis shelter at Kadera in the Netherlands.

Linda: ‘There, the clients can recover and recuperate. Meanwhile, we assess their safety with them: what is going on and how do clients want to move on, what do they need to do so?’

A mountain of practical things to arrange

A relocation from the islands to the European Netherlands involves an incredible amount of work. After all, a lot needs to be done to relocate a victim of domestic violence to the Netherlands.

Linda: ‘It already starts with all the practicalities. The victim needs to be deregistered from her island to register in the Netherlands. Birth certificates need to be issued for the victim and for the children travelling with her – most women come to the Netherlands with children. With children, you also need to check whether there is another parent with parental authority besides the mother. If this parent does not give consent then a child is not allowed to leave the island. Sometimes there is a custody order. This must first be lifted or transferred.’

To the Netherlands, often the shortcut

Linda explains that, despite this, a relocation from the islands to the Netherlands is often a quicker step than an intra-island relocation.

‘A relocation from the one island to the other is often difficult. For instance, if you have an Aruban sedula, you are not allowed to live on Bonaire. But if you have a Dutch passport then you are allowed to go straight to the Netherlands. So this is often the shortcut.’

Overseas – a very big leap

‘The transition from the islands to the Netherlands is a big one,’ says Linda. ‘Such a huge transition has a huge impact on the client, but sometimes it is necessary for their safety. Clients do not always have a good picture of the Netherlands. Only when they are there do they find out, for instance, that there is a housing shortage in the Netherlands.

Furthermore, language is a barrier. The clients will have learnt Dutch, but often feel a barrier to speak in that language. For our part, we must also be well aware of the fact that, as European Dutch people, we often speak quickly and a lot. Speaking Dutch slowly and clearly is an area of concern for us; too quickly we assume that the client ‘speaks Dutch anyway.’

‘It is funny to see how different children master a language,’ says Linda. ‘They go to school right away – in primary school within a week – and speak Dutch well in no time. But even for them, of course, they have to get used to the Netherlands. Longer school days, cycling to school, not wearing a uniform… They too, end up in a completely different culture.’

Building a future

Do clients from the islands usually return to their islands after their stay with Kadera in the Netherlands? This rarely turns out to be the case. Linda explains why.

‘At Kadera we are always stimulating clients to go back to their home island. But in practice, most stay here. Often they have re-established ties with family in the Netherlands during their stay and they want to build their existence here. What also plays a role is that they can be granted urgency in obtaining housing in the Netherlands. However, they usually stay longer in shelter. Partly because they start with a backlog in practical areas such as the lack of a BSN, health insurance, bank account, etcetera. So a lot of practical arrangements to deal with for them.’

In control

‘What clients from the islands often struggle with is the fact that we give them direct control,’ Linda explains. ‘We support clients in everything but insist that they take charge themselves and take control of their lives. But clients from the islands are not at all used to questions like ‘what is good for you’, ‘what works for you’, and ‘how do you see your future’. They can quickly feel overwhelmed. That is something for us to bear in mind!’

‘What we need to be careful with on the islands is that we have a good discussion with the client when we propose that they are relocated to the Netherlands. So that she knows what to expect. And if a client does not want to, then it is important for the referrers to clearly identify why not and what the other options are.’

The positive effect of the No Mas No More Conference

‘When it comes to shelter, the Netherlands and the islands have already learnt so much from each other,’ says Linda firmly. ‘We have made great strides. The No Mas No More Conference also made an important contribution to this. We now know how to find each other and learn from each other what is needed to best accommodate victims of domestic violence.’

Working on even better shelter

Linda expresses her hopes for the future. ‘It will be nice if, in the future, we can all talk about safety in exactly the same way. That, figuratively speaking, we ‘speak the same language’. So that we can jointly see to what extent a situation is unsafe and what is needed. How? By all speaking the same language when it comes to (un)safety. For example, by using the same risk screening, as done throughout the Netherlands. By working with colour codes (green, orange, red), everyone knows exactly what to do in different situations. I would like to get to the point where if a victim on Saba, for example, is allocated with the colour code red, she can then go to one of the other islands for shelter.’

Ample progress

This brings Linda to a very important point: ‘I hope that in the future it will become easier to accommodate victims of domestic violence within their own region, without running into the various practical or residence law issues. If you can overcome this then far fewer victims will need to take the big leap to the Netherlands. It is by far the best if a client can stay in her own region and her own culture.’

‘And what would be the best thing of all,’ Linda concludes her inspiring story: ‘That clients with their children can eventually return to their home island. That they are safe in their own home environment. And we are working hard to achieve that. It is amazing what has been achieved on the islands in a relatively short period of time. The administrative agreement came and immediately specific plans were made, which is really fantastic. I have deep respect for that, hats off to that….’