When we aren’t worrying about Cynthia being thrown out of the country for overstaying her welcome, we like to enjoy our time on the road. Driving, even in an area as beautiful as southern France, can be tedious. We’ve become somewhat desensitised to distant views of magnificent snow-capped mountains and endless lagoons filled with exotic birds. We need something else to entertain us. Guessing and counting the number of motorhomes we’ll pass on a journey is one game we like to play. Counting brightly coloured birds is another.
We’re not talking about the masses of pink flamingoes, egrets, cormorants and pelicans we pass. The birds which really interest us are a much more colourful species. The scenic road south from Narbonne to Fitou is the workplace for several dozen prostitutes.
Each has her own patch, often one with enough space for a lorry or two to pull safely off the road. The girls sit quietly on old plastic chairs, reading or texting as they wait for customers to arrive. Most sit quietly. One, more entrepreneurial than most, has an eye-catching way of attracting potential new clients. She hoists her short skirt around her fleshy waist and points two sagging buttocks at passing motorists. This road section is not one we like to use just after we’ve eaten.
According to French news website ladepeche.fr, very few of these entrepreneurial ladies are French. The majority come from either Bulgaria or Romania. I assume that language isn’t a problem judging by the number of chairs we see close to offroad parking, empty apart from a book and a bag holding what I assume to be a packed lunch and a jumbo bottle of antiseptic.
When we haven’t been making light of the terrible lives endured by eastern European sex workers, we’ve been gathering the information we need to try and persuade the Dutch government to overturn the decision to refuse Cynthia’s application to stay in the Netherlands long term. We spoke to a very accommodating lady for the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). She confirmed that Cynthia’s application for a long stay permit has been refused because we didn’t use a Dutch address for our application, a requirement which wasn’t mentioned when we submitted the application.
We said that a fixed address isn’t something we can provide because of our nomadic lifestyle. Our case handler suggested a solution. She asked if we can prove we were in the Netherlands for six consecutive months last year. She asked us to submit an appeal in writing including as much documentation as we can find supporting our stay. I don’t really understand the logic behind a request for documentation supporting a six-month visit when the application is for a permit to stay for longer than three months in the first place. Surely by providing proof of our extended stay, we are admitting staying longer than Cynthia’s three-month entitlement?
Anyway, we’ve been busy copying and compiling any information we think may help. Cynthia’s amassed a thick wad of bank statements detailing Dutch purchases. I’ve provided links to dozens of online photo albums. Most of the photographs were taken with an iPhone which geotags the location. I’ve also linked to blog posts written about our Dutch travels and provided a link to a Google spreadsheet showing a Google Maps location for every night we stayed in the Netherlands in 2017. We will also include receipts for significant purchases and boat and motorhome services and repairs.
If the postman has the strength to carry our bulky appeal to the IND headquarters, I think we’re in with a chance. We’ll be keeping fingers and toes crossed for the next few months and hope that our battle with bureaucracy is finally over.