Expatica news

Verdonk battles against protest website

11 June 2004

AMSTERDAM — Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is fighting a group of Amsterdam law students who have set up a website protesting against her asylum seeker deportation policy. The website is called ritaverdonk.nl.

The Liberal VVD minister has demanded the owner of the domain relinquish rights to the web address, claiming that it can cause confusion and mislead the public. The minister also said the use of her name violated her personal privacy.

The owner of the domain, S. Timmer, has told Verdonk that he only hosts the web space and the conflict is a matter between the minister and the students, newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Friday.

One of the creators of the website said the students will not handover the domain without a fight. The law students defended themselves based on the right to the freedom of expression.

“Our (web)page forms an alternative to the Minister’s site on which she one-sidedly propagates her deportation policy. We want to express another voice and give visitors a chance to respond.”

Minister Verdonk pushed a plan through Parliament earlier this year giving 2,300 long-term asylum seekers a residence permit. But the amnesty also paved the way for the deportation of 26,000 others — some of whom have been in the country for 10 years — over the next three years.

Municipal councils and asylum seeker lobby groups have expressed concern about the policy and international media have widely criticised the plan. Several protests have also been staged in the Netherlands.

The deportations are aimed at clearing a backlog of asylum requests from the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). Asylum seekers in so-called distressing situations will be allowed to stay.

Meanwhile, the domain name ritaverdonk.nl has only been registered for two months. Immediately after her appointment to the Justice Ministry as Immigration and Integration Minister last year, Verdonk registered the domain name ministerverdonk.nl.

The battle between Verdonk and the students is similar to when Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende fought a legal case two years ago.

A foundation had snatched the domain names janpeterbalkenende.nl and jan-peterbalkenende.nl out from under the Christian Democrat CDA leader’s nose. But the foundation eventually lost the legal battle and was ordered by a judge to give up the domain names.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news