Concerns about elderly people without residence status, such as George: ‘I can not take medicine with me without a BSN number’

They have often been in the Netherlands for more than 20 years, but they are still illegal. Researchers from Erasmus University Rotterdam mapped this group of tens of thousands of people. Their advice: give them residency status.

Led by Professor of Criminology Richard Staring at Erasmus University Rotterdam, researchers from various universities studied the lives of long-term undocumented elderly people in the Netherlands. The results of that study worry researchers.

Children are legal

“There is a lack of factual knowledge about this group’s living conditions and needs of the elderly,” Staring concludes. “One of the things that struck me is that they are often part of fragmented families, which means their children legally live in the Netherlands.”

According to the professor, this often causes practical problems. “The now grown children also do not know what to do with their illegal parents, who are becoming more and more needy.”

Needs more and more care

Researchers talk about an ‘impoverishment of the social network’. There are fewer and fewer friends and family where these undocumented elderly used to live, making them more dependent on reception places. This is also seen by social worker Niels Vlasman at Regenboog Groep in Amsterdam. “We are concerned about this group. They are slipping, physically and mentally, and it is often very complicated to get the right care for these people.”

At the reception of the Regenboog Groep in Amsterdam, they try to help these people in the best possible way. “But the older they get, the more care they need,” Vlasman says. “Where should they go? A nursing home is not an option, but it would be best.”

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Only undeclared work

The number of undocumented migrants in the Netherlands is estimated at between 25,000 and 58,000. It is often asylum seekers who have exhausted their remedies, or persons with an expired residence permit. Most of them have lived in the Netherlands for more than 20 years.

One of them is George from Suriname. He is 68 and has lived in the Netherlands for over 30 years. His children and grandchildren live and work here legally. Due to his illegal status, he is only allowed to work illegally. Every now and then he works for a landscaping company or gets a few euros to set up terraces.

No citizen service number

In terms of care, the lack of a residence permit presents major practical problems for George. “Holland is my country. I have nothing left in Suriname. Yet I still feel like the black sheep here because I need a BSN number for everything. And I do not.”

For example, he was recently operated on for cataracts, an acute medical procedure, but could not get the medication he needed subsequently. “The pharmacy then asks for my BSN number, or for my insurance card. Then I have to say again that I do not have it.”

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Not just emergency care

In the Netherlands, everyone, including persons without a valid residence permit, has the right to emergency treatment. But according to GP Lou Bartels, it would be much easier to provide long-term care to this group of people. Every day in his practice, he sees between ten and fifteen elderly undocumented migrants with typical age-related problems. “It is always a challenge to organize the care of this group, also because it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to get into practice,” he explains.

“This group is not going back to their country of origin. Most of them can not even go back. They are staying here, so we better find a way to give them the care they need.”

Get out of the illegality

George worries about the future. “I do not want to be a burden to my children. They have their own lives and worries. I see them and come to birthday parties, but I can not live in the house there. And legally I can not go anywhere. A contract to work or living somewhere, I will not get. “

Ultimately, the situation is unsustainable for this group of people, Professor Richard Staring emphasizes. “We advocate to offer this group a way out of the illegality. We must remember that they have also met a need. They have cleaned our houses, renovated our gardens. Now that they are too old to do this physically demanding work, it makes sense to be generous in giving legal status. “


See the report on this topic here.

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