13 April 2004
AMSTERDAM — About 7,000 people marched in protest in Amsterdam on Saturday against the Dutch government’s plan to deport 26,000 long-term asylum seekers over a period of three years.
The protest organisation Keer het Tij (Turn the Tide) said it was representing Dutch multiculturalism and solidarity to protest against what it described as the government’s anti-social asylum seeker policy. The protest passed without incident.
Protestors listened to several speeches from about 1pm on Dam Square. One of the speakers was an asylum seeker from Sudan, who said her country was not safe enough for her to return to.
The protest march started at about 2pm and wound its way through the city centre before ending on Dam Square a couple of hours later, public news service NOS reported.
Dutch columnist and TV personality Jan Mulder and author Carry Slee, plus politicians Jan Marijnissen (Socialist Party), Femke Halsema (green-left GroenLinks) and Klaas de Vries (Labour PvdA) participated in the demonstration.
The government resolved earlier this year to give a residence permit to 2,300 long-term asylum seekers and additional “distressing” cases, but the amnesty also paved the way for the deportation of 26,000 others.
MPs backed the plan — which was designed to clear a backlog of asylum requests lodged with the immigration service IND — in February. The plan has been described as the largest deportation since World War II.
Despite initial opposition, the association of Dutch municipalities VNG and the large cities also backed the plan after being assured that no asylum seekers would end up on the street while awaiting deportation.
Widespread community dissatisfaction with the amnesty scheme has been reported and the public has been urged to offer shelter to refugees.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news