Verdonk eats humble pie to survive wrath of MPs

15th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

15 December 2005, AMSTERDAM — Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk saved her job during a tough debate on Wednesday evening by admitting she had repeatedly misled parliament.

15 December 2005

AMSTERDAM — Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk saved her job during a tough debate on Wednesday evening by admitting she had repeatedly misled parliament.

Opposition parties were calling for her head because Verdonk denied in parliament earlier this year that the Immigration and Integration Service (IND) had given details to the government in Congo about Congolese people who applied for asylum in the Netherlands. There were several reports in the media that rejected asylum seekers were arrested and mistreated on return to Congo.

An investigation by current affairs programme 'Netwerk' proved that IND had, contrary to Verdonk's statements, notified the Congo's government on 20 occasions that a Congolese national had sought asylum. This occurred 102 times in relation to 31 other countries.

Former minister Klaas de Vries of the opposition Labour Party (PvdA) tabled a motion of censure against Verdonk, saying she had mislead MPs on the issue "more than a hundred times". He said she would have to resign if the motion was carried.

The PvdA, Socialist Party, green-left GroenLinks, Christian party ChristenUnie and the one-person Groep Lazrak indicated they had lost confidence in the minister, but they failed to attract support from the three government coalition parties, or the populist LPF and fundamentalist Christian SGP.

MPs from all sides were very critical of Verdonk as the debate started, but she won over the coalition factions by admitting she had "incorrectly" and "incompletely" informing parliament on the Congo issue. The motion of censure was backed by only 62 of the 150-strong chamber.

Verdonk said after the debate that the criticism had been justified. "Mistakes were made and I admitted this frankly. She acknowledged one could not ignore the fact that a large number of MPs had voted for the motion against her. "But one must take action rather than resign. That is what I did," she said.

While Verdonk was fighting for her political life on Wednesday, it was announced she had been voted the best politician of the year in a new opinion poll, mainly because of her "clear language" and "trustworthiness".

Just over 21,500 members of the public took part in the survey conducted for television news programme TweeVandaag. Highlighting the mixed feelings about Verdonk, she also came third in the rankings for the worst politicians.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner were judged to be the first and second worst politicians of 2005. PvdA leader Wouter Bos came second to Verdonk in the best politician section.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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