Holly-Ann Collins: Home Again After 14 Years of Asylum in Holland Aine O'Brocken September 24 2008
Fourteen years ago, after a divorce and a subsequent custody battle that ended in her losing custody to an abusive husband and father, Holly-Ann Collins took her children and fled the country.
Holly-Ann Collins has returned to the United States and to the state of Minnesota and has pleaded guilty to a charge of “contempt of court.” According to her response in an interview, Collins has no problem with such a pleading, since she has nothing but contempt for a court which failed to protect her children.
Fourteen years ago—in 1994—this mother fled the country, to find safety for herself and her children. With her, she took her daughter, Jennifer, who was nine years old at the time and her son, Zachary, who was eleven. Collins also had with her a third child, born after her divorce in 1990 from her children's father.
Although she had been divorced for some time from Mark Collins, the parents were still involved in acrimonious child custody proceedings over Jennifer and Zachary. Despite the fact that Holly-Ann Collins alleged in court that her former husband, Mark Collins, was a batterer and abuser, the courts decided in his favor and gave custody of both children to the father.
When Holly-Ann Collins left this country, the Netherlands was not her original goal. She was trying to reach New Zealand. However, in Amsterdam, she was bumped from the flight. Her travel documents were not in order; she was thus unable to continue and afraid she might have to return to the U.S.
At that point, this mother approached the Dutch military police at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and asked for asylum for herself and her children. Apparently police did not at first take her request seriously.
She had with her, however, thorough documentation of abuse by her ex-husband, and the military police then sent her to an asylum center.
In 1996, she and her children received official refugee status from the government of the Netherlands. For all these years, the family has lived in a small town close to Amsterdam.
According to bloggers, life there does not always seem to have been easy for them. There was still an FBI warrant out for Holly-Ann. A neighbor, Jaap Hogewoning,used the internet to discover the warrant and reported the refugees to the FBI. The same neighbor complained about them—too many children, and all were on welfare. The neighbor was even taken to court, accused of beating Holly-Ann.
When the U.S. government, responding to Hogewoning’s report, found the family, authorities tried to force their return to the United States, but were unable to do so.
Two main facts eventually made Holly-Ann’s return possible. First, her daughter, Jennifer, wanted to return to the U.S. and work in Washington, D.C. as an advocate for children caught in similar circumstances. Then Holly-Ann’s attorneys worked out an agreement with state and federal authorities to drop the felony charges, provided Collins would agree to plead guilty to contempt of court.
On September 23, Holly-Ann Collins flew from Holland to do just that. She will be placed on probation and required to perform community service