On 6 September 2017, hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean area, causing enormous damages on the islands of St. Martin, Saba and Sint Eustatius. St. Martin was hit particularly hard. Buildings and roads took heavy damage, many people lost their homes and there were shortages of basic facilities such as water and electricity.
Caribbean part of the Kingdom
The islands of St. Martin, Saba and Sint Eustatius, also known as the Leeward Islands, belong to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. St. Martin is one of the four countries forming that Kingdom, with Curaçao, Aruba and the Netherlands being the other three. Sint Eustatius and Saba are "public bodies", a status comparable to that of municipalities, and form the Caribbean Netherlands together with Bonaire.
Reconstruction on certain conditions
Immediately after the hurricane had hit the islands, the Dutch government provided emergency relief aid. The council of ministers decided to contribute 500 million euros to a fund for repairing the hurricane damages suffered on St. Martin.
The Dutch government attached two conditions to this financial contribution: the creation of an integrity chamber on St. Martin, and the reinforcement of border patrol activities by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee and the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.
As soon as St. Martin agreed to meet these conditions, work was started on reinstating the facilities required to meet the basic needs of the population, the so-called early recovery. This included fixing houses and recreating employment opportunities, but also distributing school meals and offering psychosocial support.
In order to ensure that the money provided is spent correctly, state secretary Knops of the Interior and Kingdom Relations wants the World Bank to administer the bulk of the money committed. In total, the government made 67 million euros available for the reconstruction of Saba and St. Eustatius.