Hirsi Ali: fast decision amazes ministers
16 May 2006
AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Tuesday he was among those “surprised” at the speed of Monday’s decision that Liberal party MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali was never a citizen of the Netherlands.
The decision on Hirsi Ali’s non-status in the Netherlands was announced by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk on Monday evening.
Verdonk, also a member of the Liberals (VVD), announced she investigation into Hirsi Ali on Saturday in light of Somali-born Hirsi Ali admitting she had lied to get asylum in 1992. She became a Dutch citizen in 1997.
She admitted to the lies back in 2002 when she joined the VVD but no one took any notice. The matter came to light again last Thursday when a television programme traced her journey to the Netherlands.
Verdonk said on Friday that Hirsi Ali had nothing to fear, but the situation changed drastically by Monday afternoon.
Balkenende said rules had to be followed meticulously and that Verdonk had to explain to parliament during an emergency debate on Tuesday evening what had gone on in this case.
Verdonk was summoned to Balkenende’s private office earlier in the day for a private meeting.
Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm appeared at the press conference held by Hirsi Ali on Tuesday to announce she is resigning from parliament and leaving the country.
Zalm emphasised he was there as the former political leader of the VVD who got Hirsi Ali to join the party, and not in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister or Finance Minister.
Saying he was “astonished” by the speed at which Verdonk took the decision, Zalm said the cabinet would examine whether Hirsi Ali could still be granted citizenship.
Although he said he was not criticising Verdonk, who is running for the leadership of the VVD, he noted the speed of the decision was unusual. “If the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) always worked so fast, we shortly wouldn’t have any backlogs anymore. But I respect her decision.”
The IND is working to eradicate backlogs in processing thousands of asylum files and resident permit requests that have been awaiting decisions for months, and some for years.
Zalm said it normally takes a few weeks for the IND to answer questions posed in parliament on immigration matters. But in Hirsi Ali’s case, Verdonk was able to answer MPs’ questions about her status within one day of starting an investigation into information that was public knowledge for over three years. “That’s a conspicuous speed,” the former VVD leader said.
Verdonk told parliament on Tuesday the speed of the investigation was accelerated because Hirsi Ali was a member of parliament.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news