Speech by Mayor Jan van Zanen at the opening of Emergency Appeal the Netherlands, 1 April 2022

Dear friends,

What a week it has been. Yesterday, President Zelensky adressed the Dutch parliament. He asked us to cease all trade with Russia, deliver more weapons, and bring the import of Russian gas to a halt. There was also cautious optimism regarding the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.  Meanwhile, the war continues. With many casualties and human rights atrocities. The UNHCR now expects that 5 million refugees will have fled the conflict.

The western world supports Ukraine. By military means. By supporting Ukrainian citizens. By receiving refugees. For The Hague, the international city of Peace and Justice, the response has an added dimension.

We host the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. Both have already been with legal procedures relating to the war in Ukraine. We also host many NGO’s that deal with human rights issues. This afternoon I visited the Helsinki Committee and Justice&Peace, who organize the Shelter City Program for human rights defenders. They are doing everything they can to support Ukraine.

Of course, the city of The Hague is also taking in its share of refugees. I have already spoken with many of them. Their stories are terrible. But at least they are safe. So far The Hague Region has taken in 18.00 people, including 700 here in The Hague. We expect that number to grow significantly.

Four locations in the city are now operational to care for refugees in the longer-term. Basic life necessities are provided. There is medical and psycho-social help. Children can play and do sports. The search for more locations is a challenging puzzle. The other groups of refugees who were already here before the war in Ukraine began must not be compromised. We must do everything we can to prevent corona outbreaks as well. Vaccination rates among Ukrainians are low and it is understandable that the sense of urgency on this matter is not top of their priority list right now.

Fortunately, the children can already go to daycare and school. In the coming weeks, even more schools will open their doors. Adults who are willing and able to work can get started quickly. As a municipality, we help with mediation. We have made a temporary arrangement to provide people with an allowance, but it seems that a ministerial arrangement may also soon be in place.

The Ukrainian people who were already living, working and studying in the Hague are inspiring. I already met Anna and her friends, and I am impressed by the resilience of the Ukrainian community in the Hague. And now, you have even established a non-profit organisation to offer humanitarian help to Ukraine and its fugitives:  the ‘Emergency Appeal the Netherlands’, physically established here in the Humanity Hub. This is a very welcome initiative.

As I said before, do not hesitate to contact me when you think I can help. I am happy to have the privilege to join you here today and wish you every success. Thank you.