2,500 rally in The Hague against deportations
9 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — An asylum seeker who sewed his eyes and mouth shut was among 2,500 people who protested in The Hague on Monday against the government’s plans to deport 26,000 refugees.
The protestors gathered in front of the Dutch Parliament as MPs prepared to debate the government’s asylum amnesty and deportation policy. Many children and asylum seekers were among the 2,500 people involved in the protest.
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk recently granted a residence permit to about 2,300 asylum seekers, but her plans to deport another 26,000 has attracted sharp criticism from politicians, churches and the wider community.
Despite the backlash, the minister reached a deal with the association of Dutch municipalities, VNG, and the large cities last week. The municipal councils were assured that asylum seekers will not end up on the street if they cannot return to their country of origin.
Meanwhile, once gathered, the demonstrators moved onto the building of the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, at about 10.30am and formed a symbolic circle around the building. The protest ended at about 11am.
The Dutch Refugee Council (Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland) — which organised the protest in co-operation with other groups — asked about 100 steadfast protestors to end the demonstration at about 11.30am, news agency ANP reported.
A large number of protestors had carried banners saying “Five years tolerance is acceptance”, “With status you get a face” and “Verdonk go home”. Many banners had pictures of hearts, while one protest banner said an asylum seeker family had been in the Netherlands for six years.
The protest was noisy as many participants blew whistles while others chanted “pardon, pardon”. Several MPs — including Jan de Wit of the Socialist Party (SP) and Marijke Vos of green-left GroenLinks — were among the protestors, news agency nu.nl reported.
All MPs were given a red heart as the protestors demanded that Minister Verdonk use her heart to reassess distressing cases and grant more people residence permits to stay in the country. On behalf of the group Harte Pardon (Heartfelt Pardon), MPs were also given a book on how to integrate in Dutch society.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news + asylum policy