Dutch convicts may be able to serve remaining years back home

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The 108 Dutch nationals serving time in Peruvian jails may be able to sit out remainder of their sentences in the Netherlands.

17 July 2008

THE NETHERLANDS - Dutch prisoners in Peru will be able to sit out the remainder of their sentences in the Netherlands, if an accord reached between Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and his Peruvian counterpart, José García Belaunde takes effect.

There are currently 108 Dutch nationals serving time in Peruvian jails, most of them for drugs offences.

The Peruvian minister, currently in the Netherlands as part of a European tour, explained that recent legislative reforms in his country would make the step possible.

Minister Verhagen will be pressing for something more definite. But the fact that it is a priority issue on the foreign affairs agenda at all is indicative of a growing problem – the rise in the number of Dutch inmates in Latin American prisons.

Since the end of 2003, the Dutch government has been enforcing what they dub "100%" checks on passengers entering Schiphol Airport from Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. Security was also stepped up at the other end.

Since the introduction of these measures, drug runners have been choosing other routes, and cheap tickets to the Dominican Republic are making it the number one drugs trafficking nation from the Netherlands' point of view, with Peru in second place.

The number of Dutch prisoners in Peru, Argentina, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic has tripled. More than 2,500 Dutch nationals have ended up staying longer than they bargained for.

It seems that it's all too easy to end up behind Latin bars. A conversation in a café at home in the Netherlands can quickly lead to an assignment.

Most would-be smugglers know someone who has done it before and a few phone calls are all that is needed to finalise arrangements. Smuggling just one kilogram earns a quick EUR 4,000.

Almost all amateur drugs smugglers seem to have seriously underestimated the chances of getting caught, the severity of the sentences, and the bad conditions in jail, not to mention the effects of being so far from home.

In Thursday's Volkskrant, readers are taken on a tour of life inside La Victoria prison in the Dominican Republic.

In cell 5 sleeps "The King of Paramaribo", a Dutch-speaking prisoner who has curtains, TV, radio, and an en-suite bathroom to boot.

In cell 11, on the other hand, with one toilet (and that's blocked), 10 hungry Dutch prisoners are huddled around one pot of soup, the only daily meal.

As one inmate says: "This is how we Dutchmen live in the Dominican Republic - like frightened rats in a corner".
[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]

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