Outrage escalates in asylum deportation row
5 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — The asylum-seeker crisis worsened on Thursday as the chairman of main opposition party Labour PvdA, Ruud Koole, denied he had urged PvdA mayors to disobey the government’s amnesty and deportation policy.
Instead, Koole said he had requested municipal council chiefs only “to gather information over distressing situations of asylum seekers threatened with deportation”, reported public news service NOS.
The opposition chairman leaped to his own defence after Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk and government coalition parties Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 strongly criticised a letter he sent to municipal mayors.
Koole’s letter “warned” PvdA colleagues against the “hard” asylum seekers policy. The minister and the three government parties claimed the opposition chairman had urged council chiefs to engage in civil disobedience with his call to resist Verdonk’s new asylum-seeker policy.
The immigration minister recently announced that 2,334 asylum seekers will gain a residence permit in a government amnesty designed to clear a backlog of cases from the immigration service IND. But about 26,000 asylum seekers will be deported over a three-year period.
Many of the asylum seekers earmarked for deportation have lived in the Netherlands for several years, found jobs and raised children. Communities have welcomed them and political and public outrage has been expressed at their looming deportation.
Amid the public tension, Koole’s alleged call for resistance hit a raw nerve, but the Labour chief now claims he demanded greater attention only to be directed at “distressing” cases.
By gathering such information, he said “the inhumane effects can become clear and real people behind the figures can become visible”. Koole also said municipal administrators are the ones being confronted with the hard reality of the deportation policy.
He denied he was guilty of urging wrong sympathies and instead only wanted to indicate the dilemma facing local mayors.
“On one side they must carry out the deportation policy, but on the other side they must guard the public order and liveability of their municipalities. I have asked for understanding for these tensions,” he said.
But the CDA labelled the PvdA stance as “scandalous and hypocritical”, while the VVD said the letter “was completely inappropriate”. D66 leader Boris Dittrich said the PvdA fuss was “undignified” and Verdonk claimed that Koole had acted beyond his authority.
Verdonk also claimed that rejected asylum seekers were being treated in a dignified fashion and refuted Koole’s claims that families were being split up.
She has also claimed that ongoing concern over the asylum-seeker amnesty is escalating into media hype. Verdonk 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 minister also said that for years the PvdA — which was in a coalition government with the VVD and D66 between 1994 and 2002 — was responsible for immigration law and had been too lax in its deportation policy.
“Everything was tolerated back then, and now there is a new cabinet,” she said.
The Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, will debate the amnesty and deportation policy on Monday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news