30 Years
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In November 1972, in response to the High Commissioner's appeal, the Netherlands Government sent a selection mission to Austria to choose some 250 Asians from among those in the transit centres.

A former World Health Organization staff member, Dr. Fred Vorst, joined the mission to assure the Asians that they could be given proper medical care once in the Netherlands. For certain families, this was a very necessary precaution: one included a 16-year-old mentally handicapped girl; another, a paralysed young man; in yet anoth­er family including eight children, the mother was chronically ill, and the father was worried as to whether he could care for the family in the Netherlands.

In the space of one week, 50 families totalling 253 persons had received visas, and between 24 November and I December they were flown from Vienna to Amsterdam. Some 180 persons were

immediately accommodated in bungalows rented by the Government at Rabbit Hill summer resort, at Nieuw Millige,. near Apeldoorn. Other summer residences at Bennekom, in Gelderland province-also closed for the winter-were used to house 70 other new arrivals.

Joint efforts were immediately undertaken by the Government, the voluntary agencies grouped in the Netherlands National Federation for Assistance to Refugees (Stichting Nederlandse Federatie voor Vluchtelingenhulp) and the UNHCR Representative in The Hague, to find jobs and permanent homes for the Asians.

Starting on 8 December, all the Asians attend­ed intensive Dutch language classes, five hours a day. Even the women, who first thought the classes were "for men only", agreed to attend, and nurseries were organized to help ant those who had small children to care for. School-age children were sent to school, and soon struck up friend­ships leading to reciprocal invitations to play with their Dutch schoolmates.

Children and adults alike received approximately $250 to buy clothing; one enterprising draper even offered to take the Asians by minibus to his shop and gave them a big discount on all purchases'.

The Netherlands Government established a special budget amounting to $860,000 to cover the care and maintenance of the Asians until they were fully settled. It also took a most generous attitude towards the problem of families which were split up in the rush to leave Uganda. As Mr. Henk van der Bie, spokesman of the Ministry of Culture and Social Affairs, put it: "If a man has six children, and officially you only anticipated four what would you do with the two others?" The answer of the authorities was - you take all members of a divided family. When the High Commissioner visited the Netherlands in January 1973, he learned to his satisfaction that some 60 family members not included in the original selection had arrived or were en route, much to the joy of their relatives.

The efforts on the part of the Ministry of Labour and the Federation for Assistance to Refugees to find jobs for the Asians soon started to payoff. There was a variety of offers, from a chain of Department Stores which made a dozen jobs available after a pre-employment training course, to a restaurant owner who had decided to open an Indian restaurant, and went to Nieuw Milligen to recruit qualified personnel... Clerks, accountants, mechanics, electricians, bank and insurance company employees, to mention but a few, all found new futures opening up for them.

Meanwhile, the search was going on for suitable housing accommodation for the Asians; the UNHCR Representative contacted 22 municipalities, located for the most part in eastern Holland, and by the end of March, all the new immigrants had been found homes. Some 70 per cent have individual dwellings, while the rest are in apartments. Almost all are new lodgings, and to enable the Asians to pay relatively high rentals, they are receiving housing grants for at least the first year. According to Mr. van der Bie, there are few problems. There might be difficulties with four or five families, but the policy was not to select only those without problems - neither the large families nor even those including a handicapped person were to be excluded; the main condition was that these people were set on building a new future in the Netherlands.

Three Asians are in mental hospitals where they are receiving appropriate treatment. A young paralysis case has been admitted to the Het Dorp village for the handicapped near Arnhem.

From different parts of the Netherlands come reports on how the Asians are faring. Take, for instance, the F. family: they are living in a comfortable apartment at Almelo, in Overijsel province. There are four in the family: Shabbir, 34, his wife Fatima, and their two daughters, Mahbooba and Batulhai. Shabbir, a former shopkeeper with accounting experience, is busy learning Dutch and has been in contact with a firm where he hopes to get a job in the near future. Fatima, his smiling wife, is already active in voluntary work in a committee formed to help the 14 Asian families at Almelo. She helps to smooth out their difficulties and solve the thousand and one small day-to-day problems that are bound to come up.

She has already made friends with a number of Dutch families, and her charming elder daughter, Mahbooba, has done likewise at school.

Or, take Sumanlal P., also living at Almelo. This 26-year-old electrician who had been in charge of the electrical system in a factory in Kampala, is sure of getting a good job in Holland, where his trade is much in demand. Recently married, he and his young wife Parvatiben could hardly believe their luck when they were told that the National Federation for Assistance to Refugees had arranged for him to take a special training course at Almelo which will permit him to get a better job than those open to him with only his practical experience.

As for Ramesh J., former senior executive in a bank in Kampala, he came to the Netherlands with his wife Saraswati and their children, Sandeep, eight, Manish, five, and Sonal, one-and-a-half. Luck was with them, too--Ramesh has found a good job in a bank in Amsterdam. Active and competent, he is having no difficulty adapting to his new surroundings; as for Saraswati, life in this big, cosmopolitan city where fate has brought her suits her perfectly, and she has no time to be homesick.