A couple with young children evacuated from St. Martin during Hurricane Irma were arrested Sunday after they tried to leave the country on an international flight, Dutch authorities said.
The parents told authorities that they left to get more vaccinations for their children who were born on the island, but were deported.
The parents, both from Armenia, had sought asylum in the Netherlands, officials said.
A woman called police saying she was going to be taken back to Cyprus after the children were taken to the Norwegian hospital, said Ralf Suitor, police commander in Hems, Hasting’s city in the Netherlands.
“An international arrest warrant was issued,” Suitor said.
Police arrested the pair on suspicion of false documents and violation of the international arrest warrant, Suitor said.
The family left the Dutch territory of St. Maarten on Oct. 16, before Hurricane Willa made landfall on other islands. The family is staying at the hotel in Marco Island, Florida, police said.
The woman, child and two children from other households evacuated to the Netherlands via chartered plane.
David Cetino, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, said Tuesday the couple arrived on a Dutch government charter flight last week and then received temporary residence permits in the Netherlands.
The IOM, which runs the evacuation operation, has launched an investigation.
“Human rights violation, intentional non-consensual deprivation of liberty, absence of consciences and illegal travel to mainland Europe – these are the actions that should end up in a criminal court,” Van Essen said in a statement.
IOM said the couple was traveling with several relatives on Monday and tried to board a Qatar Airways flight at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
“The authorities at Schiphol refused this flight and instead deplaned them on the long-term grounds of a missing passport,” Van Essen said.
“We got into a huge arguments and were told, ‘You can leave, go back to the hotel,’” Van Essen, a hotel receptionist, told BTV news channel, citing those who witnessed the scene.
Van Essen said the mother with the children surrendered her passport, but the man refused to do so.
“The other two members of the family didn’t cooperate with police at all,” Van Essen told BTV.
According to Van Essen, the father turned himself in to police about an hour later after returning to the airport with the other two members of the family.
“I told him you can’t be away like this. Why didn’t you hand in your passport? … What happened to them? You threw them away,” Van Essen quoted one of the family members as saying.
Van Essen said one of the children allegedly told police the couple’s claim to have first been in St. Maarten before Irma is false.
“The children have said it was very sad to see the vacation come to an end so soon. … They really miss the scenery,” she said.
Peter Van Essen, spokesman for St. Maarten’s Office of Civil Protection, declined to comment on the case. He told the Newsday newspaper that the government of St. Maarten has lost contact with the parents and their children.
Van Essen said the investigation is expected to end within the week.
IOM spokeswoman Nevah Rodriguez said there has been a huge influx of people from the U.S. mainland and other affected areas seeking shelter and protection in Dutch shelters and in private lodgings after Hurricane Willa hit the eastern Caribbean this month.
“The number of those coming to St. Maarten … has been enormous,” she said.