Fortress Europe? Government Parties Clash over Refugee Policy

Netherlands, 02 Apr - 29 Apr 2015
New law on refugees threatened to break government ++ PSV Eindhoven celebrating their first championship in seven years ++ Willem Holleeder - should a criminal get air time on public television? by Frederic van Zinnicq Bergmann
New law on refugees threatened to break government

Not long before the tragic drowning of hundreds of refugees, the governing liberal party VVD proposed a far-reaching plan for migration to Europe. Based largely on ideas of a plan that former VVD party leader Frits Bolkestein published 20 years ago, the party called for European borders to be shut and asylum only to be granted to refugees of European origin.

State secretary for asylum, Klaas Dijkhoff (VVD), welcomed the plan as an input to the debate on migration to the Netherlands. However, he made clear that the governing accord with the Labour Party (PvdA) does not give room for such far reaching changed. As donor to UNHCR and as a proponent of more stringent controls at the EU's external borders, Dijkhoff believes that the Netherlands are already doing a lot to ensure distribution of refugees within their regions of origin.

All other parties in the Tweede Kamer (Parliament) except the far-right PVV, made clear that they reject the VVD's proposals. Also within the Dutch public opinion the plans met with strong resistance. Neither do they correspond to current obligations under international law, nor do they take into consideration that the largest share of refugees is already staying within their regions of origin.

However, even some members of the PvdA had sympathies with the VVD's plan, criticising the left-wing elite to lack vision when it comes to migration.

Another crisis appeared to be much more dangerous for the survival of the governing coalition. For a long time, VVD and PvdA were unable to find an agreement on how to what services should be provided to immigrants that are in the country illegally. The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) had criticised the Netherlands for not providing basic services to this group of people.

After long negotiations, the governing parties agreed that a few selected centres should be provided and all current shelters shut down. The main issue that remains is that 60% of those requested to leave the Netherlands are at the end of their asylum procedure and embassies of their home countries often do not provide them with passports.

PSV Eindhoven celebrating their first championship in seven years

After seven long years, fans of PSV Eindhoven could once again celebrate their team winning the Dutch championship (Eredivisie). More than a month before the last game of the season, PSV won the title and thousands of fans from all over the Netherlands went to Eindhoven to color the city in red and white with their festivities.

With the championship, PSV fans also celebrate "rural Netherlands" (platteland) taking the upper hand over the Randstad(the metropolitan area of The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht). In the long period, when PSV was not victorious the championship most painful experience for the fans was that the title went to Ajax. PSV now holds 19 Eredivisie titles, still falling six short of record holder Ajax.

However, in this season PSV was clearly ahead of its competition. It won an impressive 27 out of 32 games so far and shot 22 more goals than Ajax, who came second this season. Three of the top ten scorers of the season are from PSV, with PSV players Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong coming first and second in the ranking.

Willem Holleeder - should a convicted criminal get air time on public television?

Over the past thirty years, Willem Holleeder has become known as one of the most high profile criminals of the Netherlands. Most notably the kidnapping of Heinken brewery's heir, Freddy Heineken, gave Holleeder his notorious image.

After serving eleven years in prison for the kidnapping, Holleeder continued his criminal career as part of a ring of criminals. The involvement in a murder brought him back to prison between 2007 and 2012. At this point, the public view began to change, when a book on his youth was published and he made songs and public appearances with several artists.

As a guest in the TV program "College Tour", Holleeder even received air time on Dutch public television. This branding of Holleeder as the Netherlands' "knuffelcrimineel" (cuddly criminal) received a lot of criticism after a recent release of footage showing Holleeder threatening to kill his two sisters.

The public outrage was directed towards Twan Huys, the host of "College Tour" and Auke Kok, author of the book on Holleeder. Many demanded both to publicly distance themselves from their past decisions to show Holleeder for what he is: a dangerous criminal.

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