Asylum seekers begin ‘long march’ to The Hague
27 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — A group of rejected asylum seekers has begun a “long march” from Groningen in the far north to Parliament in The Hague.
The 35-strong group is protesting against the hard-line deportation policy introduced earlier this month in the Netherlands by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk.
MPs have backed her plan to grant residence permits to more than 2,000 asylum seekers who have been waiting for five years or more for their applications to be processed.
Some 200 people were also granted permits on the grounds their cases were “distressing” and that they would suffer dangers or severe hardships if sent home to their countries of origin.
Another 26,000 are to be expelled in the largest deportation operation in Western Europe since the end of the Second World War.
“We want to show the minister that we are willing to endure pain in order to be allowed to stay,” Massoud Djabani of the group A long Walk to Freedom said on Friday.
Groningen is 234km from the seat of Parliament in The Hague. Apart from the long distance, the marchers were also confronted with snow and ice-cold winds.
By Friday afternoon the demonstrators and their supporters were about 15km from Assen, the capital of Drenthe Province, where a rally was planned to highlight their plight.
The group plan to stay overnight in Drenthe before travelling on to Utrecht by bus. From there, the demonstrators will walk to The Hague, via Woerden and Zoetermeer.
Djabani said he hoped about 150 sympathisers will have gathered in The Hague when the marchers arrive on Monday.
“More people will join us along the way (to The Hague). Everyone agrees that the minister has handled this matter incorrectly as there are far more than the 200 “distressing” cases she has recognised,” he said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news + asylum seekers