American Mom Receives Asylum in The Netherlands
Den Haag, The Netherlands
Domestic Published: April 4, 2008 16:02
Modified: April 4, 2008 16:30
An American woman who has been severely abused by her husband was given asylum in the Netherlands in 1997 - A unique case. Now a legal procedure is pending.
From our editor Esther Rosenberg
Rijnsburg, April 4. Monday morning: Holly Ann Collins, 42 years, in jeans and a sweatshirt sits on a red leather couch, in her town house in Rijnsburg. She wears her blonde hair in a ponytail. In the corner of the living room are rows of packed full moving boxes.
Fourteen years ago she fled with her three children from the United States, even though her ex-husband had custody of the oldest two. The FBI searched for her as a child abductor. She was granted asylum in the Netherlands. All those years they lived anonymously until a neighbor two doors further discovered her real name and called the FBI. Now she is considering moving again.
Past American asylum seekers:
To the best of our knowledge, Holly Collins and her children are the only Americans to ever receive asylum in the Netherlands. It began with the story of an American deserter, Ralph Waver, who applied for political asylum in the early seventies. Although the Council of State issued a positive advice, it was denied. His former lawyer, Willem van Bennekom: "It depends what you mean by asylum. He is not admitted as a refugee, but he is not required to return. "
Holly Collins and her children were given a residence permit.
In a ruling by the Hague District Court on October 3, 1996, states: "Where the subjective fear of having to return to the United States [...] will lead to the damage of the (mental) health, there may be urgent humanitarian reasons by nature [...]" A report of a psychiatrist confirms this fear. The IND explains by order on Aug. 15, 1997 that there exists "plaintiff and her children are allowed to remain in the Netherlands based on humanitarian grounds."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice says that he does not believe that an American has been granted asylum here. He would not even consider it. It is too unbelievable. "I have worked here for quite a while and I know that it can not happen."
Flight from Minnesota:
In the American town of Crystal Minnesota, it was a warm day in June 1994 as Holly Collins called her son Zachary, and daughter Jennifer, then 11 and 9 years from a public phone both close to the home of her ex-husband. She said: "You must now come to the video store." Two minutes later, the children arrived. They got in the car and drove for hours. Collins colored their hair black and cut her and her daughters hair. She covered them in self tanning cream.
At first they intended to flee to New Zealand. Another American mother, Elisabeth Morgan, fled with her daughter to that country a year earlier. That girl was also abused by her father and was permitted to remain in New Zealand, even though the father had visitation rights. But Holly Collins and her three children became stranded in the Netherlands. They did not have proper travel documents with them - and had to return to the United States. At Schiphol they requested asylum.
Her Lawyer, Els Lucas from Lelystad, said that at first she laughed when she heard that the family came from the United States. Lucas: "But she had a compelling story which was extensively documented that I decided that it was a worth an attempt."
Battle with ex-husband:
In the first month of her marriage to Mark Collins, 25 years ago, Holly ended up in the hospital three times: with bruising, swollen and blood shot eyes. In the medical file there is documentation that her son Zachary had been treated in the hospital for a broken skull, caused by her husband, she alleges.
She left him, moved to another state, but he knew where to find her. "One day I answered the phone. It was Mark. He said: I'm at Logan, bitch. You are going to die tonight." (Logan is Boston Logan International Airport.) She fled with the children, drove to the beach and spent the night in the car.
After a half year, he was allowed visitation with the children for a week, but she did not permit them to go. He filed a motion with the court. Just before the trial they were put alone together in a waiting room. He hit his fist in his hand hard and rhythmically. She was shaking when she stood in the courtroom.
The judge found her behavior exaggerated. He found that her fear interfered in the childrens' relationship with their father: parental alienation. Holly Collins: "That was a hype in America at that time."
Mark Collins received custody, to reestablish a bond with his children. Only under strict supervision was she permitted visits with her children. In her bathroom the children left notes behind. They wrote “Help Me!” and told her that they would be alone in their father's home on that day in June.
Again in Fear:
Now that the neighbor has made her whereabouts known and who and where she is, Holly Collins does not know what is to become of her and her children.
There are people who find her a hero because she protected her children from her exhusband for fourteen years. The American lawyer Alan Rosenfeld, who defends battered women and children, offered to defend her but she has to turn herself in. The American Congressman Steny Hoyer has offered to help and she has been asked to speak before Congress.
There are also people who call her a kidnapper, such as the neighbor in Rijnsburg who called the FBI. Jaap Hogewoning is 39 years old driver in the construction industry. He says that for years he has been disturbed by the family. One day he saw a package that was received by a neighbor with her name Collins. His wife searched on the Internet while he took a shower. She exclaimed: "Now let's look! " He downloaded the program Freecall so that he could call the FBI and the police in Minnesota for free. "I also have taken some pictures of the children and sent them."
According to Holly Collins' attorney Alan Rosenfeld, the FBI is no longer interested in her case. "It's been a long time since they fled the country. "They will want to know most how she has done it." By e-mail he informed that only the local prosecutor of Hennepin County, Minnesota, intends on criminal prosecution.
"There is one thing that is certain, there will be a trial" says Holly Collins.
Does she see herself as a hero or as a kidnapper?
"I always thought of myself as nothing, a nobody. I am now almost to the point that I think this is the best thing I have ever done. "
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