Minister slams asylum seeker ‘media hype’
4 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — Embattled Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk claimed on Wednesday that ongoing concern over the government’s asylum seeker amnesty and deportation policy is escalating into media hype.
Verdonk said social workers and lawyers are depicting asylum seekers as “pitiful people”. She also said asylum seekers “are clasped by an iron ring of lawyers and social workers who are taking advantage of people’s emotions and have thus unleashed media hype”.
The government recently announced it will grant a residence permit to about 2,300 asylum seekers under an amnesty designed to clear a backlog of asylum requests from the immigration service IND. But about 26,000 asylum seekers will be deported over the next three years.
The plan has encountered widespread community and political criticism, as many of the rejected asylum seekers have lived in the Netherlands for several years, found jobs and raised families.
But the minister said the media was portraying different stories than were at odds with those found in IND case dossiers. She said the media reports of “distressing stories” immediately prompted thoughts that their deportation should not be allowed, but the IND dossiers present a totally different story.
She also said it was too quickly forgotten that asylum seekers are only allowed into the Netherlands on a temporary basis and must return to their country of origin once their region is declared safe. If these people do not return, they are taking up space needed more urgently by other people.
Verdonk also said that the public’s resistance to the government’s deportation policy was not as broad as it appeared. “Citizens expect from the government clearness and political clarity, not a half-story that disguises problems”.
Amid the growing tension on Monday, Prime Minister Balkenende confirmed his support for the deportation plan shortly before government party Liberal VVD parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen urged him to show greater support for VVD Minister Verdonk.
But government parties the Christian Democrat CDA and Democrat D66 loudly criticised the deportation policy on Tuesday, demanding clarity before they agree to the plan. They demanded guarantees that asylum seeker families would not be separated.
The populist LPF and D66 have also demanded to know why the minister granted a residence permit to just 220 “distressing cases”, referring to former LPF immigration minister Hilbrand Nawijn, who first coined the phrase when he proposed the government amnesty while still in office.
Those off-hand comments led to a stream of requests from asylum seekers, some of whom were told last year by the IND they would not receive a residence permit before Minister Verdonk had decided on the criteria for the amnesty.
The Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, is expected to discuss the government’s amnesty and deportation policy on Monday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news