Saturday 10 December 2016

Teen sailor 'won't go home' for fear of being put into care

Bruno Waterfield in Amsterdam

Published 20/01/2012 | 05:00

A Dutch teenager who is one day away from becoming the youngest person to sail around the world single-handedly has vowed never to return to her homeland because she faces being taken into care.

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Laura Dekker (16) has torn down the Dutch tricolour on her yacht, 'Guppy', to protest against the social workers who have repeatedly tried to stop her solo voyage.

In her last blog posting as she crosses the Atlantic for her finish line on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten tomorrow, Laura complains of her "intimidating, frightening and traumatic" treatment.

"From the moment my plans became public, youth care and other government organisations tried to stop me.

"They asked the judge to take me away from my father and to lock me up in a secure clinic! By doing this they tried to stop me from sailing," she wrote.

"Over a period of 11 months, I was constantly afraid that youth care would lock me up."

The Dutch authorities, who tried to put Laura into care two years ago to stop her sailing solo, have claimed that the teenager is not doing enough school work while navigating her 38ft yacht.

When her father refused to make an appointment to discuss it, Dutch truancy officers announced they intended to bring in social workers again.

Laura added: "Now, after sailing around the world, with difficult port approaches, storms, dangerous reefs, and the full responsibility of keeping myself and 'Guppy' safe, I feel that the nightmares the Dutch government organisations put me through were totally unfair.

"I hear now that the Dutch government organisations have started causing problems again. I am seriously thinking about not returning to the Netherlands."

Her lawyer, Peter de Lange, said that the latest row was a misunderstanding based on her blogging in recent weeks that she needed to concentrate on sailing, not school work, while she coped with high waves.

Laura announced her plans to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the world single-handedly in 2009, when she was 13. Dutch social workers intervened after a tip-off from the British police after her trial voyage across the North Sea.

The child welfare authorities brought the case to court and a Dutch judge ruled that the she was too young to sail alone.

Laura then ran away and took a plane to Sint Maarten, where she was arrested and sent back to the Netherlands.

In July last year, a child court judge gave her permission to start the voyage on the condition that she continued her education via an online teaching programme.

The teenager, who also has New Zealand citizenship after being born in its territorial waters, said that the attitude of the Dutch authorities had stopped her choosing the Netherlands as the ending point of her record-breaking voyage. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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