Dutch news in brief, Thursday 4 December 2008

4th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

4 December 2008

Terror threat level in the Netherlands is ‘substantial’

In today's de Volkskrant, National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism Tjibbe Joustra warns that the threat level in the Netherlands is higher than ever. The increase is mainly blamed on the effects of right-wing politician and Freedom Party leader Geert Wilder's anti-Islam film Fitna. The threat level is officially 'substantial', but Mr Joustra says it's actually, "Just a tad more than substantial".

He says, "When compared to the substantial threat level of three years ago (when Samir Azzouz was arrested for planning terror attacks), the underlying issues are much more solid."

Mr Joustra refused to elaborate on the exact nature of the threat, but de Volkskrant writes that Arab-language jihad sites are encouraging attacks on the Netherlands because of Wilder’s film. In one jihadist pamphlet, Muslims are urged "to slaughter this apostate".

Food banks are receiving large donations
AD reports that the nation's food banks are "bursting at the seams". The paper writes that they are receiving large amounts of food and toy donations, as well as financial contributions. The holiday season, recent publicity and the weak economy are contributing factors to the unexpected generosity. Some food banks are even running out of storage space.

Anton Werner of the Rotterdam food bank says, "Demand for luxury products has collapsed due to the economic crisis. Supermarkets no longer buy these products, so they wind up here. The worse shape the economy is in, the more we receive.”

However, Deputy Social Affairs Minister Ahmed Aboutaleb and most local councils would rather the food banks were diminished. The deputy minister says he wants food banks to refer their clients to municipal council services, "where they can claim any number of financial benefits and debt relief, so they would no longer need those food banks."    

The Amsterdam Sinterklaas Centre hires Moroccan 'Black Petes'
Also in AD, a report on this year's celebration of the traditional Dutch feast of Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children.

Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, arrives on a ship from Spain, instead of by sleigh from the North Pole. In the Netherlands, he rides a white horse to bring presents to all good children. His helpers are not elves, but Moorish servants called 'Zwarte Pieten' (Black Petes), dressed up in late mediaeval costumes. Sinterklaas himself is dressed like a bishop, including a tall hat, long robes and a staff.

The Amsterdam Sinterklaas Centre decided that this year the Black Petes who accompany Sinterklaas on his trips to meet local children will be of Moroccan descent.  The Moroccan ‘Petes’ will protect Sinterklaas from possible harassment by Moroccan youths.

Henk van der Kroon, Chairman of the Sinterklaas Centre, says this method will maintain order.  The Sinterklaas Centre will also advise the local police station when planning a visit to a difficult neighbourhood.

"The Moroccan Black Petes yell at these young dudes in Arabic that they should push off. It usually works, because we're dealing with 10- and 11-year-olds. They do all kinds of stuff, pulling on Sinterklaas' mitre, spitting, yelling, kicking dents in Sinterklaas' car."

Mr Van der Kroon says every Sinterklaas knows what it's like, "But the way we handle things means you can keep things more or less under control."  

Asylum seekers can challenge exclusion from general amnesty

Trouw reports that the Council of State, the highest administrative court in the Netherlands, ruled that asylum seekers may challenge their exclusion from a recent general amnesty.

The ruling is a setback for Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak, who intended the general amnesty to end the tens of thousands of appeal procedures filed with the immigration and naturalisation service (IND) and in the courts.

However, the Council of State rejected her argument that asylum seekers who believe they should be included in the amnesty must return to their country of origin and apply for a temporary residence permit here. The council ruled that this was "too restrictive".

Many asylum seekers were not covered by the general amnesty because they spent a brief period abroad.

Dutch athlete wakeboards in Venice

De Telegraaf presents on its front page a picture of Dutch sportsman Duncan Zuur surfing the Piazza San Marco, or Saint Mark’s Square in Venice, on a wakeboard pulled by a motorised crank. The square was flooded for several days as a result of record high tides.

"We are hooked up to a Venetian alarm system and automatically received a text message when the flood hit. I immediately left for Venice with my friends," he said. After his stunt, Duncan received applause from a number of surprised tourists in the square.

[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]

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