Expats campaign to lift travel restrictions for international family members
A group of expats and internationals living in the Netherlands have started a campaign called #alsjeblieftnederland, imploring the Dutch government and the EU to lift coronavirus travel restrictions for family members living outside of the European Union.
Expats in the Netherlands ask for travel restrictions to be lifted
The #alsjeblieftnederland campaign was launched in March to mark the one-year anniversary of the government’s entry ban. It was started by the citizens’ movement Families van buiten de EU, wij missen jullie! (“Families outside the EU, we miss you!), the Dutch branch of Family is not Tourism.
“We want an exemption from the EU entry-ban for first and second-degree family members of Dutch nationals and of legal residents,” say Lorraine Blauw and Andrea Morales, two expats living in the Netherlands who campaign together on behalf of the #alsjeblieftnederland movement, “It is emotionally devastating not to know when you will be able to see your parents again.”
“My twins keep on asking me why the government doesn’t care that they miss their grandparents. I have them in tears most nights,” says Blauw. “We are not second class citizens and should not be treated as such.”
Campaign asks Dutch government to allow non-EU relatives into the country
The group Family is not Tourism also successfully launched a petition last summer, calling on the EU to “stop denying cross-border families this fundamental human right” and allow family members of non-EU citizens or residents to enter the EU.
Since its launch, the petition has garnered over 12.000 signatures and was referred to the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. The EU Commission has been asked to conduct a preliminary investigation into the matter.
Back in November, the Dutch branch of Family is not Tourism also launched a campaign that saw over 300 children’s drawings presented to the Director-General for migration at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Justice and Security. In December, the Ministry denied the campaign’s plea to grant non-EU relatives entry to the Netherlands on the grounds of the national lockdown.
Impact of EU's entry ban on expats' lives
Alongside the travel restrictions put in place by the Dutch government, the EU entry ban applies to all travellers from outside the European Union, and prevents them from being able to enter any EU or Schengen country, with only a few exceptions. There are some exceptions for family members, but grandparents are only allowed to enter the Netherlands if they depend on their Netherlands-based and EU-national relatives. Campaigners believe the EU entry ban restrict their family’s right to family life, outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Blauw explains how the restrictions have had a significant impact on the lives of her and her children after she was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation, a rare vein tumour that requires regular treatment. “Special permission for a grandparent to fly over from South Africa to take care of our children while I was recovering was denied by immigration authorities as they saw it as a non-essential. After my husband’s father passed away last May in South Africa from ALS and we couldn’t attend the funeral because of COVID regulations, my family was shattered.”