'Westernised Afghan women can claim asylum on certain grounds'

The Council of State has told junior justice minister Mark Harbers to rethink his decision not to give asylum to two women from Afghanistan and one from Somalia who say they are too westernised to be sent back. A western lifestyle is not enough by definition to merit the right to asylum but it is, if this is the result of a religious or political conviction, the Council of State said in its ruling. 'If a woman has become less or not at all religious in the Netherlands, or has come to act in a more western way out of political conviction, then they could face persecution and so have the right to asylum,' press spokeswoman Hanna Sevenster said. In addition, women who can no longer adapt to the way of behaving in their country of origin can also qualify for asylum, she said. 'This could be behaviour which is totally normal in the Netherlands ... such as looking straight back at men or having conversations with them - things which can get you into trouble in your country of origin.' The council said the minister must assess each case individually on its merits. This should include evidence about how the woman behaved when she came to the Netherlands and how she has developed since then. In none of the three cases had this been done, the council said. One woman, a 21-year-old Afghan woman who has been in the Netherlands for seven years, told broadcaster NOS earlier this year she has made her life in the Netherlands. ‘Here I can chose what I wear, what I do and who I am,’ Mohadese Moradi said. ‘I cannot do that in Afghanistan.’  More >

American art heir takes NL gov't to court

An American heir of art dealers Benjamin and Nathan Katz who sold art to Nazi officials during the World War II occupation is taking the Dutch government to court in New York in an effort to have 143 works of art returned to the family, the New York Times reports. The Katz heirs maintain that the works in question, which include paintings by Rembrandt and Jan Steen and which are now held by the Dutch government, were sold under duress and should be returned. In one case, a painting was exchanged for exit visas so 25 Jewish relatives could escape, the paper writes. But according to an earlier decision made by a Dutch government-appointed panel the paintings were sold ‘under circumstances that could not be considered involuntary’. 'The Dutch have a vested interest in keeping this art, the United States only has a vested interest in what’s fair,' the NYT quotes Katz heir Bruce Berg’s lawyer Joel Androphy as saying. The Dutch minister of culture told the paper it had not received any official notification about the case. Collections Last month research by the Dutch Museums Association showed that Dutch museums have at least 170 works of art in their collections which may have been stolen from their Jewish owners during World War II. In total 42 different museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam appear to have stolen art in their collections, according to a list of all potentially stolen works identified to date. The probe into potential stolen art was started in 2009 when the Museums Association asked museums in the Netherlands to investigate the provenance of their collections after earlier research suggested just a few works of art were wrongly held. Between 1933 and 1945 many Jewish collectors and dealers were forced to sell their works of art by the Nazi occupiers. Other paintings were simply confiscated or stolen and many ended up in museum collections after the war ended.  More >

700,000 people vote today for new council

Some 700,000 people in 37 different local authority areas are voting in local elections on Wednesday, eight months after the rest of the country went to the polls. As a result of an efficiency drive to concentrate municipal services, the 37 municipalities, will, by January 2019, become just 12. This means the vote will result in 12 local councils instead of 37. Changing the boundaries of towns and villages is nothing new. Two hundred years ago the Netherlands had over 1,200 municipalities. After the latest reshuffle the number will have shrunk to 355. The operation has not always gone smoothly. The town of Haren, which has now been added to Groningen, has fought long and hard to remain independent over the years. The changes in the north means Groningen city will have 230,000 residents, almost the same number as Eindhoven. Province Residents in Leerdam and Zederik will even wake up in a different province come the new year as the provincial border moves from Zuid-Holland to Utrecht. According to the NRC, campaigning by the government party leaders in the new municipalities has been subdued. The municipalities represent 10% of the votes, which is not enough, the paper says, for full-blown electioneering. That will have to wait until the provincial government elections in March which may lead to Mark Rutte’s cabinet losing its majority in the senate.  More >

Transgender people still disadvantaged

Lesbians and gay men did not experience more violence than heterosexuals in 2017 but transgender people were still worse off on all fronts, according to an SCP report on the living conditions of LGBTs in 2017. The SCP did not investigate why the situation for gays and lesbians had improved, but said it could be the result of gay people adapting their behaviour to avoid trouble or a growing acceptance of homosexuality. However, violence directed at bisexuals increased between 2012 and 2017, from 3.2% to 4.4%.  Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in particular were also more often the victims of cyber bullying and indicated that they felt less safe than heterosexuals. They also faced more negative reactions at work. Although an earlier SCP report detected a rise in acceptance of transgender people, they are still often in a worse social-economic position, with badly paid jobs and are more often in debt, the new research found. For example, just over half of transgender people are on low incomes compared to 28% of population at large. The gay rights campaign group COC told broadcaster NOS it was unaware of a downturn in violence against lesbians and gay men. The organisation has not noted a drop-off in the number of reports of violence and police figures do not show a reduction either, chairman Tanja Ineke said.  More >

Traffic jams cost industry €1.3b

Traffic jams cost Dutch companies €1.3bn last year, a rise of 3% compared with 2016, according to new figures from transport sector lobby groups TLN and Evofenedex. The A4 motorway between Schiphol and The Hague was by far most 'expensive' piece of road in terms of the cost of congestion, the research showed.  Delays on that road cost industry nearly €24m, according to the calculations by research group Panteia. The A15 and the A27, both near Gorinchem, were second and third on the blackspot list. The researchers say the financial damage is due to goods not being delivered in time, which can lead to production lines being closed down or late deliveries to shops. TLN and Evofenedex say the government must invest more in tackling congestion and say the introduction of some form of road pricing for all road users, not just cargo, would also ease the problem. More should also be done to help motorists avoid trams, such as improvements to public transport and better traffic response apps. 'The figures are shocking and if we don't do something it will only get worse, given that we expect jams to get longer and more common,' says TLN chairman Arthur van Dijk. 'We have to take action, and as quickly as possible.'  More >

Lelystad hospital will lose key units

The IJsselmeer hospital in Lelystad will lose its accident and emergency department and its midwifery services after all because there are not enough specialist staff available in the region, health minister Bruno Bruins has told MPs. The health ministry was prepared to put in extra money to save the units but only on the condition that the departments could be run in a responsible way, Bruins said. Bruins had said that keeping the acute departments open would be key in any rescue package for the hospital, which went bust last month. The bankruptcy has led to an outflow of staff and expertise even though the hospital is still open. Takeover talks are now ongoing but the minister's decision means an emergency department and specialist midwifery unit are no longer part of the deal. The closure will mean people who need complex emergency care will have to go to other hospitals in the region, such as Almere, Sneek and Heerenveen, the minister said. Talks on a takeover of the hospital group are continuing and everyone involved is optimistic about the chances, Bruins told MPs. Amsterdam Meanwhile in Amsterdam agreement has been reached on dividing up the work formerly done by the Slotervaart hospital, which had the same owner as the IJsselmeer hospital group and also went bankrupt. The OLVG group - which has hospitals in the city centre and in west - will take over the bulk of the work done by the Slotervaart. Cancer services are being transferred to the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek specialist cancer hospital. Some specialist cancer staff have also made the move to the AvL.  More >

Rutte finally condemns pro-Piet hooligans

Prime minister Mark Rutte has described the people who attacked anti-blackface demonstrators during the Sinterklaas processions this weekend as ‘hooligans who were happy to cause trouble’ during question time in parliament on Tuesday. Rutte has been widely criticized for failing to condemn the racist attacks and was questioned by MPs about his response. The mob which attacked a handful of protestors in Eindhoven, by throwing eggs and hurling racists abuse at them, were ‘coked out idiots who were drunk’ Rutte told MPs, before going on to restate his distaste for ‘extremists on both sides’. Nevertheless, most of the trouble at the weekend was caused by hooligans, he said. ‘They used the most disgusting racist texts and even gave a nazi salute,’ the prime minister said. Rutte said he believed they should be charged with racism but that this is a matter for the public prosecution department. The minister also stated there are no plans to ban demonstrators during the three week Sinterklaas festivities, but said again that he 'wondered why' they had to take place during the children's festival. The VVD leader in parliament Klaas Dijkhoff had called in an impassioned Facebook post for a ban on demonstrations during the Sinterklaas processions.  More >