10 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — Despite resolute criticism from opposition MPs, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk won Parliament’s backing on Monday night for her plans to allow 2,300 asylum seekers to stay in the Netherlands, but deport 26,000 others.
A parliamentary majority made up of government parties the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 stood behind the embattled minister, allowing the legislation to pass unscathed through the Lower House or Tweede Kamer.
But MPs also asked the minister to examine whether a greater number than the 220 people already given approval to stay based on “distressing” reasons might be given a residence permit. The minister agreed and said the number of distressing cases might eventually be higher.
In assessing distressing cases, the minister said she will take account of families with children, but she dismissed a D66 proposal to introduce a special test, which would be administered by a separate commission, public news service NOS reported.
Verdonk also said she had confidence in the project group — which personally assists asylum seekers with their return to their home country — to inform her of distressing cases. She may award more residence permits based on advice from the project group.
Meanwhile, the minister welcomed the parliament’s support for her amnesty and deportation policy, praising a good and positive debate.
To clear a backlog of cases from the immigration service IND, about 2,300 people will be allowed to stay, but 26,000 will be deported over a three-year period. The plan has met with stiff opposition from the MPs, churches and the wider community.
But the association of Dutch municipalities VNG and the large cities backed the minister’s plans last week after being assured that no asylum seekers will end up on the street.
And parliamentary approval of the amnesty policy means that public servants can start preparing the deportation of 3,000 people who are expected to be removed from the country before the summer.
A further 10,000 people will receive a definite answer from a judge about their status in the near future. The remainder of the 26,000 asylum seekers who do not qualify for the government’s amnesty — and hence a residence permit — are still being investigated by the immigration service IND.
The minister refused to comment on advice from the foreigner affairs commission, which had urged her to reassess the dossiers of asylum seekers who have waited five years or more for a final decision on their asylum request. She said the matter would be raised in Cabinet.
Parliamentary backing of Verdonk’s plan came despite a motion from main opposition party Labour PvdA for a more expansive amnesty. The green-left GroenLinks, Socialist Party and the small Christian party ChristenUnie also demanded that more asylum seekers be pardoned.
GroenLinks MP Marijke Vos and PvdA MP Klaas de Vries criticised the minister’s statement that allowing more asylum seekers to stay would tempt more asylum seekers to enter the country. They said the minister’s statement could not be evidenced, giving as example Germany and Britain.
Prior to the debate being held, about 2,500 protestors gathered around the Lower House building to demand that more asylum seekers be allowed to stay. A man who sewed his eyes and mouth together, plus many children were involved in the protest, which was organised by the Dutch Refugee Council.
Verdonk praised the protest as a good democratic right, but she drew offence to protestors who entered the parliament gallery and unveiled a banner comparing her asylum policy to the Holocaust deportations during World War II.
“We have careful procedures in the Netherlands. This cannot be compared with Jews who were put on a train to the gas chamber,” she said.
After several warnings to the protestors that they were not allowed to be heard from the gallery, the parliamentary debate was suspended for several minutes.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news