Hundreds of Dutch people in long-distance relationships have called for the Netherlands to follow Denmark’s example and allow cross-border lovers to reunite despite coronavirus restrictions.
Maud van Leeuwen, a 23-year-old law student at Leiden University, is in a serious relationship with American Kevin Hoogenboom, whom she met on a work placement in New York. She believes it is unfair that some people can enter from non-EU countries which are still in the grips of a severe coronavirus epidemic – but not partners.
‘There are no exceptions except for being married, people who want to work in the Netherlands and students,’ she said. ‘But partners are not allowed. Some women here are pregnant, one couple was due to get married next week, and my partner wanted to ask my dad’s blessing for us to get married.
‘We want a category for sweethearts, as Denmark, Norway and Austria have right now. People who have a relationship that we can prove with pictures and text messages and who are willing to pay for every corona test and to self isolate: you name it – we’ll do it.’
Love is not tourism
She has started a movement called #LoveIsNotTourism/#LoveIsEssential with 300 members who have non-EU partners, written letters to Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhuis, and lobbied parliamentarians. The group wants the Dutch government to recognise and allow entry to partners in an enduring relationship, requiring, for example that they take a corona test 72 hours before travel, or be tested on arrival and wait for the result in quarantine.
However, minister Grapperhuis has written to parliamentarians that the Danish model is not appropriate due to Covid-19 restrictions in the Netherlands and he sees ‘no need to relax the current policy’ for travel exemptions.
Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, MP for the liberal democrats D66, told DutchNews.nl that he has submitted further parliamentary questions calling for solutions for this group to be found and suggesting that it is an ‘arbitrary’ rule that unmarried partners are not admitted. He also asks that the information on government pages should be clarified and updated on this subject.
For Ryan Westerdijk, a 23-year-old software designer from Wieringerwaard, every week matters. His fiancée, 25-year-old Kimi Chia returned to Singapore in February after a long visit to discover she was pregnant with a baby boy. ‘It is devastating being separated for the entire pregnancy,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t there to see her find out she was pregnant or to see her scans. It makes me feel very bad.’
Like Van Leeuwen, he says the couple would be prepared to take all necessary tests and self-isolate, but calls for a compassionate exemption from the current rules.
A spokeswoman for the justice department told DutchNews.nl that it has no plans to adopt a Danish model at the moment. ‘Minister Grapperhaus has written to the lower house saying that we will not currently have a sweetheart visa,’ she said.
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