Syrian refugees helped boost asylum requests by two-thirds last year

In total, 23,935 people applied for asylum in the Netherlands last year, a 66% increase on 2013 and the highest level since 2002, the national statistics office CBS said on Wednesday. The biggest group – 10,000 – were people from Syria and Palestinians who reached the Netherlands via Syria, the CBS said. Eritreans accounted for around 4,000 refugees. The CBS says the true figure is actually higher because family members do not have to submit a separate application. Including family members, the total number of refugees is around 28,000. The highest number of refugees to come to the Netherlands was almost 53,000 people in 1994, forcing the authorities to put them up in tents. Most of them were escaping the fighting in the former Yugoslavia. [banner] Last October, junior justice minister Fred Teeven said up to 65,000 people could request asylum in the Netherlands over the year. This followed reports that in May 1,000 refugees a week, mainly from Syria and Eritrea, were arriving in the Netherlands. The surge led the minister to step up border controls and increase efforts to crack down on people smuggling gangs. Teeven also ran into problems with plans to house thousands of refugees in a holiday village next to a village of around 100 people.  More >

'No integration test for longer residents'

Integration test for long-term residents not okay: EU advocate general The Netherlands may not force people to take an integration test if they have lived in the country for more than five years, the advocate general at the European court of justice in Luxemburg said on Wednesday. The advocate general, Maciej Szpunar, was commenting on cases brought by an American and a New Zealand national, both of whom have refused to take the test. The American, named as P, has lived in the Netherlands since 2002 and was granted a long-term residency permit in 2008. She was told that year by Breda city council she had to take an integration course and pass an exam within a certain period. P began the course but became ill and failed to start it again when she recovered, the court document states. The New Zealand national, named as S, came to the Netherlands in 2000 and was given long-term residency in 2007. Amstelveen city council told her in 2010 that she needed to take and pass the exam. The Netherlands requires non-EU newcomers to follow an integration...  More >

Dutch FA chairman plans to modernise Fifa

Dutch FA chairman wants to modernise Fifa, focus on football Dutch football association chairman Michael van Praag outlined his campaign to take over the Fifa presidency from Sepp Blatter on Wednesday, saying he will only serve for one four-year term. Van Praag says he has the backing of six national football associations: Belgium, Sweden, Scotland, Romania and the Faroe Islands, as well as the Netherlands. Five nominations are necessary to be a candidate. In total, 209 footballing nations will vote for the president on May 29.  Jérôme Champagne, David Ginola, Ali bin Al-Hussein and Luis Figo have also come forward as potential challengers to Blatter, who has been president since 1998. During a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Van Praag, who is 67, said he wanted to modernise the organisation. ‘Fifa could mean so much more to football,’ he is quoted as saying by the NRC. ‘But in order to do that, you need to modernise. Change and greater transparency are part of the spirit of the times.’ Scandals Van Praag...  More >

Leiden 'bomb' was ad agency camera

Dutch FA chairman wants to modernise Fifa, focus on football The suspected bomb which paralysed train traffic around Leiden station on Wednesday morning was a camera hung from a concrete pillar by an advertising agency, Nos reported late afternoon. Passengers alerted railway officials at 07.30 this morning after spotting a plastic bag and camera taped to the pillar. The station was evacuated and train travel halted while the mysterious bag was checked by explosives experts. Police issued a description of the white man seen hanging the camera from the pillar. Now it transpires the camera was placed there with official permission although the police and railway officials on duty on Wednesday morning were not aware of the fact. The NS now wants to find out who the advertising agency had spoken to. The camera has been taken apart and rendered useless in the investigation, Nos said.   More >

Mega factory farms undesirable: minister

Dutch FA chairman wants to modernise Fifa, focus on football The cabinet does not support any further industrialisation of livestock farming, junior economic affairs minister Sharon Dijksma told MPs on Wednesday. The minister was speaking during a debate on plans to develop a factory farm in Limburg combining one million chickens and 35,000 pigs with a slaughterhouse. Dijksma refused to comment directly on the Grubbenvorst plans because the Council of State still has to rule on the development. A majority of MPs do not back the development of such enormous factory farms. Nevertheless, Dijksma said it is ‘not that simple’ to resist further industrialisation because local and provincial councils have a major role to play in the decision-making process, news agency ANP reports. Dijksma said she is working on draft legislation which will prevent the development of massive farms if health could be at risk.   More >