Den Helder club loses out to asylum policy
As Dutch cricket begins to recover lost ground outside the Randstad, the major area of conurbation in the central west of the country, one of the minor success stories of the past twelve months has been the re-establishment of cricket in Den Helder, the town north of Amsterdam which is home to the principal base of the Dutch navy.
A group of cricket enthusiasts who joined forces with the existing multisport club MSV Zeemacht to bring the game back to a city where it had last been played in 1992 enjoyed a successful inaugural season in 2011, finishing second in Division 4A and just missing out on promotion.
Buoyed by this success Zeemacht has been looking to expand, and had planned to enter a second team in this season’s competition.
But these plans have been destroyed by a decision which has nothing to do with cricket, for the nucleus of the new team had been a group of residents in a centre for asylum seekers in Den Helder, the function of which has this week been changed.
From now on the centre will be used to house families whose applications for asylum have been refused but who cannot be deported under the Dutch government’s increasingly stringent immigration policies because they have children under the age of 18, and the existing residents are being moved to centres elsewhere in the country.
It is as yet unclear whether the group, comprising refugees from Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan, will all be moved together to another centre, as they would prefer, or whether they will be broken up and distributed around the Netherlands.
‘We can’t have any influence over that,’ one of the would-be cricketers is quoted in the Dutch press as saying last week. ‘We just hope that wherever we are, there’s a cricket club nearby.’
The chairperson of MSV Zeemacht, Jellie Gatwinas, is evidently very sympathetic to the cricket section’s problem.
In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf she paid tribute to the enthusiasm of her club’s cricketers, and observed that it was extremely sad that half the players were being lost through this decision.
’Playing cricket gave those players an important outlet,’ she added, ‘even if their situation isn’t too rosy in general.’
It is understood that the KNCB is aware of the issue, and that efforts will be made to ensure that the group are able to play elsewhere if it is at all possible. But that doesn’t help the cricket enthusiasts of MSV Zeemacht.