Thanks to Ankie Broekers-Knol I once again thought back to my long-gone childhood. A great achievement of hers, whatever you may think of her as outgoing Secretary of State. Broekers-Knol believed that children should grow up with a distant relative, such as an aunt, cousin or half-uncle, rather than with their parents. We know that thanks to the revealing article in NRC about its tightened asylum policy. It concerned unaccompanied minor aliens (amv) who were no longer allowed to be reunited with their distant parents in the Netherlands if they already had relatives living here; they had to take over the care.
Although Broekers-Knol has changed her mind after the necessary external pressure, I am left with the question: what would her initial policy have meant to me as a child?
My parents came from Heemstede/Haarlem, but my father had to settle first in Nijmegen, where I was born, and then in Venlo for his work. There I could traditionally grow up with my parents as a cohabiting, unbalanced adolescent (sop).
But suppose there had been a civil war going on in the Netherlands at the time and I, coincidentally staying with my family in the west, had not been able to return to my parents because a state secretary forbade that? Then I would have been brought up by Uncle Rigt from Heemstede, a nice, good man whom I hardly knew because the relatives only visited once a year. I still owe my love for pop music to his son Richard, because he introduced me to the songs of The Everly Brothers, who now unfortunately both have to sing forever in God’s woods.
From sop to unaccompanied minor – and that too in Heemstede. What would have become of me? Uncle Rigt had just become a widower and had other things on his mind. I would have become a lonely boy there, without my parents. Long empty Sunday afternoons, without the VVV football matches (Faas Wilkes!). No more ball boy at my father’s superior tennis matches, multiple club champion, yes. No more mother to give me a bath, no matter what Freud might say about it.
Ankie Broekers-Knol would have taken all that away from me. Because she is a member of a party, the VVD, which has become far too afraid of the right-wing, xenophobic radicalism of Wilders and Baudet. The understandable concern about the abuse of certain schemes has turned into one big spasm of blunt rejection, which threatens to wipe out all empathy from policy. Because what would have happened if NRC hadn’t revealed the evil plans?
I see that Syrian boy from the NRC article in front of me. With his suitcase at Schiphol. He wanted to return to his parents in Greece who were not allowed to come to the Netherlands. Closing sentence: “The police took him back to his uncle.”
I was reminded of that beautiful American nursery rhyme, in which a baby is sung to sleep. Very sweet, but that is allowed in nursery rhymes. The first verse reads: Who’s gonna shoe your little pretty feet/ And who’s gonna glove your little hands/ And who’s gonna kiss your ruby red lips/ Mm mm mm. It’s on YouTube and the singers are, I can’t help it either… The Everly Brothers.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of August 25, 2021