Draft of Schiphol fire report is 'explosive'

13th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

13 July 2006, AMSTERDAM — Hague insiders have speculated that Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk will face political problems when the report into the fatal fire at the Schiphol detention centre is published.

13 July 2006

AMSTERDAM — Hague insiders have speculated that Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk will face political problems when the report into the fatal fire at the Schiphol detention centre is published.

Citing sources in The Hague, newspaper 'De Telegraaf' reported on Thursday that the long-awaited report, due out in September, is "explosive".

The report by the Dutch Safety Board deals with the fire that killed 11 people at the Schiphol detention centre on 26 October 2005. They were illegal immigrants being held pending deportation.

A draft of the report was circulated within several government departments last week and top Justice Ministry officials have been shocked by its findings, the newspaper said.

The safety board's reconstruction of events surrounding the fire suggests the Justice Ministry was seriously negligent in several areas. The State construction service (Rijksgebouwendienst) the police and the Fire Brigade also come in for criticism.

Although the report does not directly single out Donner (Christian Democrats) and Verdonk (Liberals), it could still pose problems for them. Verdonk, in particular, will face questions about her statement shortly after the fire that the response of the centre's staff and emergency services was "adequaat" (which can mean adequate or efficient). The report paints a very different picture, the newspaper said.

Pieter van Vollenhoven, chairman of the Board, complained survivors of the fire were deported prior to being questioned about the fire. This was contrary to assurances given to parliament by Donner and Verdonk.

Van Vollenhoven also said that the list of names of detainees was unclear and statements made by staff at the Prison Department only surfaced late in the investigation.

The report could re-ignite the controversy about whether Verdonk makes statements before properly investigating the facts. Sources in The Hague said this could become a new saga similar to the Ayaan Hirsi Ali passport affair.

Verdonk sparked an outcry in parliament and abroad in May when she suggested Somali-born MP Hirsi Ali was never a Dutch citizen. She based this on a two-day investigation into Hirsi Ali's admission she lied about her name to get asylum in the Netherlands. She used her grandfather's name rather than that of her father.

MPs gave Verdonk six weeks to re-investigate and ordered her to make sure Hirsi Ali kept her Dutch passport. The Minister announced at the end of the period that Somali law permitted the use of the grandfather's name and therefore Hirsi Ali had not lied.

Democrat D66 withdrew support from the three-party coalition because Verdonk compelled Hirsi Ali to sign a statement to say it was her fault for misleading the Minister.

The government collapsed but was replaced a week later by a minority Christian Democrat and Liberal administration. Its main task is to introduce budget in the third week of September. A general election has been scheduled for 22 November.

A contentious debate about the report into the fire would be an unwelcome distraction, and could endanger the support the government needs from the opposition benches.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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