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Natalia, so integrated she has to leave


It felt like a dirty trick was being played on them. Natalia Robledo-Contreras still cannot believe what happened the day she and her younger sister first applied for a Dutch residence permit. An immigration official refused to accept the girls’ applications until their parents came into the office, claiming that their custody documents were not sufficient. Natalia, then 17 years old, and her lawyer were suspicious. What if this was a ruse to detain her parents, who like the sisters were undocumented? This was why the girls had gone alone. 

But with the official refusing point blank to take their forms, Natalia’s mother decided to come to the office. She was detained immediately upon arrival. “I cried non-stop, even after my Mum was released later that day,” Natalia says. “She was ordered to leave the country immediately.”  

That day in 2012 marked the beginning of Natalia’s long quest for legal status in the Netherlands, a country where she had already lived for nine years. At every stage she would try to do the right thing and in each instance these efforts would be used against her case. The process would ultimately cost Natalia her family. 

Natalia’s father left behind poverty and unemployment in Chile in 2001 after a relative helped him find a job in the Netherlands. But the job was off the books so when a year later when he brought his wife and two children to join him they were also without documents. As an eight year old, Natalia was initially reluctant to leave her home in Santiago. But she was a good girl, a trier who took responsibility. She excelled at school in the Netherlands.

The family had tried to get legal residency in the Netherlands via several different routes, but did not qualify. A lawyer advised Natalia’s family to wait at least four years for the children to develop roots in the country, through school and Dutch language classes, before applying for the sisters’ residence permits. “Getting good grades would be good for my case, we thought, as a family,” Natalia says. “I often went from school, to home, to school again.”

Natalia, now a 25-year-old law student, walks through the train station in Amsterdam. A walk she would usually take to travel to her university. But the otherwise bustling train station is now almost empty because of the coronavirus lockdown. She supports her studies by working as a cleaner but this has mostly dried up since the pandemic broke out. But Natalia is conscious that others are even worse off: “Thousands of undocumented migrant domestic workers have also been let go by their clients.” 

“All these good grades and my Dutch language classes were to show my integration into Dutch society. But the officials used them against me. They told me that I was smart enough to adapt to a life in Chile.” 

Natalia speaks softly, but there is fire in her voice when she talks about the struggles of undocumented workers. She is chairperson of the Migrant Domestic Workers board, part of the Dutch Trade Union Confederation (FNV), and currently the face of their campaign for financial support for undocumented domestic workers who lost their incomes during COVID-19. “I find it awkward to be filmed,” she admits. “But they usually ask me because I have good command of the Dutch language.”

Activism runs in her family. Her mother took part in demonstrations against General Pinochet’s regime in Chile. “And my Nanna is my big example,” Natalia says with a broad smile. “She was in a women’s union for agricultural workers. I’m really proud of that.”

But Natalia has found that the immigration system made her own family, and source of her inspiration, into the main obstacle of her dream of legal residence in the Netherlands. After her mother was detained in 2012, Dutch immigration services used her parents’ undocumented status as a reason not to grant Natalia and her sister a residence permit. Restrictive immigration policies such as those in the Netherlands and Norway can create perverse incentives for undocumented families. With the path to legal status so tough for the heads of families, authorities fear that it incentivises immigrants to obtain residence permits first for their children. The immigration service used the argument that Natalia’s parents might benefit from her legal status to apply for family reunification against Natalia. 

Families isolate from their children

“This is a standard argument used by Dutch immigration services against children in undocumented family cases,” said Natalia’s immigration lawyer Corinne de Klerk. Some families therefore isolate themselves from their children or deny having contact, in order to strengthen their application. “I even know of a case where the parents pretended to have disappeared from the life of their child,” de Klerk said. “The child now lives in a foster family because the parents knew their presence would be a disadvantage to their child’s case otherwise.”

The United Nations Children’s Rights Treaty states that countries should not discriminate against children based on their parents and make the best interests of children the primary consideration in immigration cases. Dutch political opposition parties have proposed a bill to adopt this article into Dutch law.

While there are few reliable estimates of the number of undocumented people in the Netherlands, a study in 2013 put the population at 35,530. In 2016, a survey by a medical aid organisation in Amsterdam found around 15 percent of their patients had undocumented children. 

Despite the uncertainty shrouding her family, Natalia graduated near the top of her high school class. She was sure that doing well at school should make a difference and took her school reports to periodic meetings with the immigration services. “All these good grades and my Dutch language classes were to show my integration into Dutch society,” she says. “But the officials used them against me. They told me that I was smart enough to adapt to a life in Chile.” 

In one meeting they would tell her she was not integrated enough and in the next that she was too integrated.

“Slowly Chile became further away for me. I grew attached to the Netherlands, mainly because I knew nothing else”

Natalia was also required to “cooperate with her return” in order to apply for a permit. “They asked us to buy flights to Chile, to watch a Dutch reality television programme about people living a good life in Chile,” Natalia says. This process often scares people into dropping legal procedures, according to De Klerk. “They pressure you to leave,” Natalia says, with a sigh. “After a while you don’t know what to do anymore to help your case.”

After five years of battling the system, Natalia lost an appeal in her case for a residence permit in 2017 and received an entry ban. From that moment, she was living illegally in the Netherlands.

“I lost everything. I couldn’t even dream about a future for myself anymore,” she said. The situation took a toll on their whole family. “You become unhappier over time and feel like blaming something for it. I started to blame my father for his decision to go to the Netherlands. I began to ignore him.” Natalia looks at the ground, searching for the right words. “It’s the entire situation that slowly pushes you apart, into a position where you consider it might be better to cut the cord with each other.” 

Natalia shivers. Suddenly the toll of years of uncertainty is suffocatingly apparent. The country of her birth had become a truly foreign idea.

“Slowly Chile became further away for me. I grew attached to the Netherlands, mainly because I knew nothing else,” she said. She started working full time as a cleaner and joined the trade union and Migrant Domestic Workers board. “I didn’t want to be undocumented and do nothing for society,” she said. 

The residency application of her sister, who has mental health issues, was ongoing. Natalia had also struggled with her mental health over the years. “I couldn’t break down,” she says of her childhood. “My parents were working at least six days a week. Two ill daughters would be too much to handle for my family. Instead, I hid behind my school books.” 

After two years living without papers, Natalia’s lawyer suggested adding her to her sister’s case, a common approach when one sibling’s case is stronger. She started the residency process again, terrified by the memories of her mother’s detention when they first applied.  “Now it was me at serious risk of being deported immediately,” she says. She had a panic attack and went to see a psychologist, but was not able to access treatment due to her immigration status.  

In her last appeal in January 2019, Natalia brought all the evidence she had to prove her ties to the Netherlands and show that she was entitled to a residence permit. In the end, the broken relationship with her parents became a decisive point in the case. The authorities could no longer claim her parents would benefit from her status. Three months later, Natalia and her sister received residence permits, 17 years after they arrived in the Netherlands.

“I can enjoy my life now,” she says. She enrolled in an undergraduate degree and hopes to qualify as a lawyer in three years. She continues working and protesting with the Migrant Domestic Workers network. “When I’m walking to my university, I think: I’ve been wanting this for so long!” she says. “But this is followed by sad memories of everything that it cost.”

The relationship with her parents remains strained. “We’re mending it now,” she says slowly. “It’s much needed.” Asked how her parents see her today, she says: “They are proud of me. I think they are the most proud of the fact I’ve always continued to do things. That I didn’t break down.”

This article is part of the Europe’s Dreamers series, in partnership with Lighthouse Reports and the Guardian. Check the other articles of the series here.



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Last 2 journalists working for Australian media leave China


The last two journalists working for Australian media in China have left the country after police demanded interviews with them and temporarily blocked their departures, the Australian government, and their employers said Tuesday.

Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s Bill Birtles and The Australian Financial Review’s Michael Smith landed in Sydney after flying from Shanghai on Monday night, both news outlets reported.

Both had sheltered in Australian diplomatic compounds in recent days.

GORDON CHANG WARNS CHINA ‘CONFIGURING ITS MILITARY TO KILL AMERICANS’

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the closing session of China's National People's Congress in Beijing in May. (AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the closing session of China’s National People’s Congress in Beijing in May. (AP)

The journalists left after Australia revealed last week that Australian citizen Cheng Lei, a business news anchor for CGTN, China’s English-language state media channel, had been detained.

Both journalists were told they were “persons of interest” in an investigation into Cheng, The Australian Financial Review reported. Seven uniformed police visited each journalist’s home in Beijing and Shanghai at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, the newspaper said.

Australian Embassy officials in Beijing told Birtles last week that he should leave China, ABC reported.

Birtles was due to depart Beijing on Thursday and was holding a farewell party on Wednesday when police came to his apartment and told him he was banned from leaving the country, ABC said. He was told he would be contacted on Thursday to organize a time to be questioned about a “national security case,” his employer said.

Birtles went to the Australian Embassy, where he spent four days while Australian and Chinese officials negotiated. Smith had similarly holed up at the Australian Consulate in Shanghai.

Birtles and Smith both agreed to give police a brief interview in return for being allowed to leave the country.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed that her government had provided consular support to the two journalists to assist their return to Australia.

“Our embassy in Beijing and consulate-general in Shanghai engaged with Chinese government authorities to ensure their well-being and return to Australia,” she said.

Australia’s travel warning of the risk of arbitrary detention in China “remains appropriate and unchanged,” she added.

ABC news director Gaven Morris said Birtles was brought back to Australia on the Australian government’s advice.

“This bureau is a vital part of the ABC’s international news-gathering effort and we aim to get back there as soon as possible,” Morris said.

INDIAN LAWMAKER ACCUSES CHINESE BORDER TROOPS OF ABDUCTING 5 CIVILIANS

“The story of China, its relationship with Australia and its role in our region and in the world is one of great importance for all Australians and we want to continue having our people on the ground to cover it,” he added.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Michael Stutchbury, and editor, Paul Bailey, described the situation as “disturbing.”

“This incident targeting two journalists, who were going about their normal reporting duties, is both regrettable and disturbing and is not in the interests of a co-operative relationship between Australia and China,” they said in a statement.

Relations between China and Australia were already strained by Australia outlawing covert interference in politics and banning communications giant Huawei from supplying critical infrastructure. They have worsened since the Australian government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of and international responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia’s journalist union, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said China was no longer safe for foreign reporters.

“These outrageous attacks on press freedom place any foreign correspondents reporting from China at risk,” union president Marcus Strom said in a statement.

Birtles told reporters at Sydney’s airport that his departure was a “whirlwind and … not a particularly good experience.”

HONG KONG COPS CRITICIZED INTERNATIONALLY FOLLOWING VIOLENT ARREST OF 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL

“It’s very disappointing to have to leave under those circumstances and it’s a relief to be back in a country with genuine rule of law,” Birtles said.

Smith told his newspaper: “The late-night visit by police at my home was intimidating and unnecessary and highlights the pressure all foreign journalists are under in China right now.”

Smith said at the airport that he had felt “a little bit” threatened in China.

“It’s so good to be home, so happy, I can’t say any more at the moment, it’s such a relief to be home, so really happy,” Smith said.

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“It was a complicated experience but it’s great to be here,” he added.



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Tucker Carlson: Protesters Will Leave America’s Cities ‘Broke, Dirty And Dangerous’



Fox News’ Tucker Carlson went on a rant about Black Lives Matter protesters on Monday night, warning that they were going to usher in a demographic shift that would end with America’s cities “broke, dirty and dangerous.”  

Tucker focused his ire on weekend demonstrations that awakened sleeping residents of Georgetown, protesters splashing paint on locals in Portland, Oregon and incidents of looting in Chicago, and predicted how Americans will respond.

“There’s no question people will flee Georgetown,” Carlson said. ”[Georgetown] may have BLM signs in their driveways; it doesn’t mean they want screaming BLM lunatics on their streets. They don’t, nobody does actually, no matter what they tell you. No matter what color they are, no one likes that. That’s true for people in Georgetown, in Portland, Oregon, in San Francisco, in Chicago, in New York, any other place where order and decency have disappeared.”

Carlson then suggested that protesters were about to usher in “one of the great demographic shifts in American history.”

“Unless the insanity stops and soon, our biggest cities will revert to what they were 50 years ago ― broke, dirty and dangerous,” Carlson said. “On the bright side, we’ll have resolved the gentrification problem so a lot of college professors will pat themselves on the back.”

Carlson has used similar language when railing against protests in the past, describing Minneapolis demonstrations over the death of George Floyd as “a threat to every American” and calling activists who toppled the monuments of historical figures “the armed militia of the Democratic Party.” He has also frequently lamented America’s changing demographics and used anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

Watch the full clip of Tucker’s speech below, courtesy of Media Matters:





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Paid leave for public service during pandemic cost $623M, well above estimates: budget watchdog


Article content continued

Taxpayers spent $311 million covering paid leave for CRA officials alone, over 40,000 of whom accepted paid leave. The next largest cost was for employees at Correctional Service Canada ($33 million), the Canada Border Services Agency ($15 million) and Employment and Social Development Canada ($14 million).

Researchers at the PBO suggested the high proportion of CRA officials is possibly a result of tighter reporting requirements at the agency, which would in turn suggest that current data “is likely an underestimate of the number of hours of work lost during that period,” suggesting that true costs could be higher still.

Aaron Wudrick, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said costs for paid leave could reach the $1 billion marker by the time the pandemic has run its course, which he says underscores the overly generous nature of public extended leave.

“The 699 was not designed to cover indefinitely for massive numbers of people,” Wudrick said. “And so going forward, when they’re negotiating with the unions, the government needs to put some parameters around this.”

Both Wudrick and the PBO suggested that similar leave provisions did not exist in the private sector. As of July 12, more than eight million Canadians had applied for the $2,000-per-month CERB program, after private businesses went through successive rounds of widespread layoffs.

“The PBO was not able to find a leave policy of a similar scope in the private sector,” the report said.



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ASK AMY: Spouse’s solo wanders leave others to wonder


Dear Amy: I hope you can help me with a response for when people ask me why I don’t go on trips with my husband.

A few years back, my 57-year-old husband of 33 years told me that he was retiring.

I had no say in it, and it didn’t matter to him that his choice would make things financially difficult.

He said he wanted to travel before he got too old, and if I didn’t understand that, then I don’t care about him, and he would go without me.

I have always been the primary breadwinner, so he didn’t think it would be a big deal for me to be the ONLY breadwinner.

This has been very hard on our marriage, and I’m working on what to do about that. Meanwhile, at this time of year when we see family and they ask what we’re up to, my husband gushes about his upcoming trips.

Inevitably, they turn to me and ask why I don’t join him.

Some sit me down and try to convince me that I should join him. My husband just says that I’m no fun.

Nobody seems to realize that someone has to pay for his excursions, not to mention the mortgage, food, etc.

Can you help me to come up with a response to: “Why don’t you have some fun and travel with your husband?’

— Grounded

Dear Grounded: I respect your perspective on this, but would first ask that you do a little work to determine whether, in fact, you would choose to go on any of these trips, even if you could. Some people don’t like to travel. Some — like me — enjoy traveling but (basically) hate to leave home.

In your case, because there seems to be such a lack of balance in your relationship — and so much tension — you might not choose to travel because you don’t enjoy being dominated by your husband, who expresses such a lack of respect for you. Your very long marriage might continue on its current track precisely because you don’t spend all of your time together.

You should not be forced to finance your husband’s trips. If he is racking up debt (or depleting savings) to travel, you should consult with a family law attorney to see whether you as an individual are responsible for your spouse’s debts (the answer seems to be: “It depends”).

You should also research the idea of negotiating a “postnuptial agreement,” where you mutually agree how to divide your assets and income during your marriage.

But your question is really about what to say to people when they grill you about your own choices. You can respond with your version of the truth: “I’m working hard to pay for my husband’s trips.” Or something less specific: “I’m tied down with work and obligations at home.” If people call you a “stick in the mud” over this, then that’s on them. Own your individual choice, and don’t apologize for it.

Dear Amy: It’s the holiday season and I’m lucky enough to go to a few catered holiday parties.

This is probably a goofy question, but when I am at these events, should I tip the catering staff?

— Grateful Guest

Dear Grateful: Many hosts tip their catering staff independently — or the catering company will add on a service charge to be distributed to the catering staff. If there is a tip jar at the bar, then put $1 or $2 in per drink. If there is no jar, then ask the bartender if they are permitted to take tips.

If you are seated at a table and one or two individuals take care of your table — filling water glasses, bussing your plates, and bringing dessert to you, it would be thoughtful to slip $5 under your plate before you leave, but it is neither expected nor required.

Dear Amy: My heart broke when I read the letter from “Loving Husband,” whose wife demanded secrecy for her cancer diagnosis.

I had a family member who made a similar demand, and the pressure it placed on the rest of us was almost unbearable. We all struggled to provide support, while maintaining extreme secrecy about the diagnosis.

I am glad you suggested that this loving husband should receive support for his own struggle. I hope that his wife is able to let him off the hook, so he has the freedom to describe the challenges in his own life.

— Grieving

Dear Grieving: I felt enormous compassion for both spouses.



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When did Kelvin Fletcher leave Emmerdale and how did Andy Sugden exit?


Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse are your Strictly 2019 champions (Picture: BBC)

Kelvin Fletcher has joined Strictly Come Dancing hall of fame after he and pro partner Oti Mabuse were crowned winners of the 2019 final.

The former Emmerdale star – who was a late arrival to the series, replacing Jamie Laing after he withdrew due to injury – nabbed the coveted Glitterball Trophy on Saturday night, leaving viewers in tears as he and Oti were crowned.

Kelvin, of course, was previously known to millions of Emmerdale fans as Andy Sugden, one of the soap’s most beloved characters.

But how long was in the show for – and how did his character leave?

Here’s what you need to know…

When did Kelvin Fletcher leave Emmerdale?

Kelvin was last seen in the Dales in 2016.

Kelvin was a part of the Emmerdale cast for 20 years (Picture: Rex Shutterstock)

He joined the show in 1996 after being asked to audition for the character Andy Hopwood – who later changed his surname after he was adopted by the Sugden family.

Although the character was only supposed to be in the show for three episodes he went on to play the role for 20 years, becoming one of the most popular characters in Emmerdale.

Andy was the brother of Victoria (Isabel Hodgins) and also brother to the Sugdens’ other adopted son Robert (Ryan Hawley).

During his time on the show he was involved in some pretty major storylines, including setting fire to the Sugden’s barn after the farm ran into financial troubles – leading to the death of his adopted mother Sarah.

That scene won a British Soap Award in 2001 for spectacular scene of the year, while Kelvin also previously won British Soap Awards for best actor and dramatic performance.

How did Andy Sugden leave Emmerdale?

Andy left the village in 2016 after escaping from custody after being framed for attempted murder by Chrissie White (Louise Marwood), Robert’s fiance – and mother of serial killer Lachlan White (Thomas Atkinson).

Chrissie hid a gun which Lachlan used to shoot her father Lawrence (John Bowe) in Andy’s car – and to make matters more complicated she tried to blackmail Andy’s barrister into persuading him to plead guilty.

However Andy entered a not guilty plea to the crime, and managed to escape from prison, going on the run with a false passport.

His stepsister Bernice Blackstock (Samantha Giles) whom he had been romantically involved with, almost went with him also – but changed her mind at the last minute, leaving the pair to have an emotional farewell before he left.

Why did Kelvin Fletcher leave Emmerdale?

Kelvin and Oti were the hot favourites for the Strictly title (Picture: BBC)

Kelvin left the soap to focus on his other career as a racing driver, having taken part in a number of races since he left.

While the door has been left open for him to return to Emmerdale – with Andy often being tipped to make a comeback – he’s all but ruled it out.

It started winning awards since I left, maybe it’s a good thing I don’t go back,’ he told Lorraine Kelly earlier this year.

‘Since I’ve been gone, it’s gone from strength to strength. ‘I’ve very much moved on and I want to pursue other things.’



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MORE: Strictly’s Kelvin Fletcher admits struggle with family commitments due to hectic finale schedule





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Superfan Julia Kmiecik, 92, dies and Wisla Krakow will leave her seat empty in her memory – The Sun


POLISH top flight club Wisla Krakow have left a touching tribute to their superfan that tragically recently passed away.

Julia Kmiecik became a club icon for her unwavering and loyal support over an incredible 51 year period.

 Julia Kmiecik was a Wisla Krakow megafan

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Julia Kmiecik was a Wisla Krakow megafanCredit: [email protected]
 Tributes will remain on her seat at Wisla's stadium

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Tributes will remain on her seat at Wisla’s stadiumCredit: [email protected]

Her dedication was frequently recognised by the club and she was much beloved by her fellow supporters.

So when she recently passed away at the age of 92, tributes came flooding in for the loyal supporter.

But it didn’t stop there.

Having sat in the same seat for years, Wisla decided to lay out a scarf where she sat.

And they announced that the seat will always remain hers, and that nobody else will ever sit there.

Many Wisla fans posted heartfelt tributes on social media.

One labelled her as an: “Outstanding example to every fan in Poland”.

And sadly it’s not been a good season at all for Wisla.

Having lost 7-0 at Legia Warsaw in October, the Polish side find themselves bottom of the Ekstraklasa after 18 games.

And the last win that Kmiecik got to watch her beloved team pick up was a 4-2 triumph over Zaglebie all the way back in August.

But the poor results didn’t waver her commitment to the cause, as her love for the club transcended results on the pitch, and she will be greatly missed.

Frank Lampard is sure that John Terry will receive an amazing reception from Chelsea fans when he returns to Stamford Bridge





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