Verdonk: fire response was 'very adequate'
1 November 2005, AMSTERDAM — Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has exasperated MPs by claiming staff at the Schiphol holding centre performed 'very adequately' during the fire that killed 11 detainees last week.
1 November 2005
AMSTERDAM — Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has exasperated MPs by claiming staff at the Schiphol holding centre performed 'very adequately' during the fire that killed 11 detainees last week.
Verdonk made the remark as she answered questions in Parliament on Tuesday about the fatal fire. She was trying to deflect criticism of the detention centre staff, saying they had also be traumatised by the tragedy.
She qualified her remarks by adding that she was speaking "from the point of view based on what we know up to now".
She said it was unfair that lobby groups and individuals were trying to pin the blame for the consequences of the fire on the staff. "In the Netherlands you are innocent until the opposite is proven," she said.
Verdonk rejected suggestions by MPs that she was improperly commenting on matters prior to the conclusion of the investigation into the fire.
Staff at the detention centre have told the media that safety doors had been disconnected from the fire alarm system by the management prior to the fire.
Staff members, who asked not to be identified, also claimed warnings about safety at the centre had been ignored. Verdonk seemed to suggest she had not heard these claims.
Ineke van Gent, an MP with the opposition green left GroenLinks party, said the minister was wrong to describe the response to the fire as adequate. "You don't know the entire story yet. This term can lead to a lot of misunderstandings," Van Gent said.
Meanwhile, Haarlemmermeer municipal council has opened a book of condolences for the victims of the fire. And police are continuing to search for five inmates who escaped during the blaze.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news