Taxi touts banned from Schiphol airport, face fines of €350

Taxi touts banned from Schiphol airport, face fines of €350

Taxi touts who try to get tourists to take expensive unlicenced taxis at Schiphol airport face a fine of €350 if caught from next week, Haarlemmermeer town council has decided. The council has introduced bylaws banning touts from operating at the airport for six months. 'The fine can mount up to €1,500 and ultimately, a judge can order their cars can be confiscated or ban them from the area altogether,' the council said. For months, there has been a standoff at Schiphol, with certain taxi firms licensed by the airport to pick up passengers but others legally plying for work in the public plaza. In October, British singer Skin from the band Skunk Anansie criticised the airport for allowing travellers to be ‘harassed’ by touts wearing ‘official taxi’ high-visibility vests. 'It is wrong that people who come to the Netherlands from all over the world are hassled by touts as a first impression,' Haarlemmermeer council said. Other tourists have reported being charged hundreds of euros for a trip to Amsterdam, which normally costs around €50. Schiphol airport and junior infrastructure minister Sharon Dijksma have also called the situation ‘untenable'. The change to the bylaws is only temporary and a permanent solution will require changes to the taxi laws.  More >

Low-hopers 'more prone to populism': study

Taxi touts banned from Schiphol airport, face fines of €350 People have middling hopes for the future, reports the Volkskrant on Tuesday, citing the nation’s first 'hope barometer' reading. Britain has its national happiness index and now researchers from the University of Leuven have attempted to gauge Dutch levels of optimism with a small study. 'Hope and happiness often go hand in hand,' says the project webpage. Unfortunately, the first measurements from 512 people suggest the Dutch don't have terribly high hopes: they rate their positivity for the future at 5.57 out of 10 in various fields, while 60% of the group ranked their hope levels at five or lower. Patrick Nullens, professor of systematic theology at the university and research leader, said those on a low income or without a job felt significantly more hopeless than those with higher levels of education and pay. 'Precisely the people who need it most are the least hopeful,' he told the Volkskrant. 'These people have a greater risk of apathy and cynicism. They are also more prone to populism.' The project, called 'hope as an incentive' is supported by the Goldschmeding Foundation, which says love is 'central' to its work. It presented the study group with a number of ideas, such as that faith gives them hope, but found only 15% of them gave an average of seven or higher. The researchers apparently want to examine the effects of issues like pollution on mental states in future.  More >

AD: avatar Eva could interview refugees

Virtual case worker Eva could interview refugees in future A virtual case worker called Eva could interview potential asylum seekers in the future, reports the AD on Tuesday. The multi-lingual avatar is being developed by a Gelderland-based company called Virtask which – its director told – has been talking with the IND immigration service about how it could help speed up processes. Zutphen municipality, also in Gelderland, is about to begin trials of the program at its asylum seekers’ centre. Further trials will follow in Alkmaar. The Zutphen council in the east of the Netherlands has already funded fifty 'sisters' of Eve, called Anne, to support carers of people with conditions including dementia by performing routine tasks like scheduling appointments or adjusting the temperature. It would potentially use the new program to question refugees who already have permission to stay in the Netherlands on their education and experience prior to placing them in a home. Currently, refugees are questioned on arrival by several people in the IND, which generally involves two case workers plus a translator and takes several hours. Virtask’s product could apparently speed up and simplify this process, and also store and process information immediately. Annemarie Johannes, director of Virtask, believes Eve’s language abilities could be especially useful in interviewing refugees who have just arrived in the Netherlands. She told 'I'm very happy that we can start with trials. The idea is to see if it can be quicker, save money and staff. Zutphen will use it with people who already have permission to stay to find out what they want to do and can do. 'We had created Anne for consumers, older people or those with disabilities, and came up with the idea of Eva for refugees. We aren't screening people: it is a registration, so Eva can't conclude that someone is lying.' She added that they chose a blonde, blue-eyed woman to meet expectations of Dutch natives but went for an older, sterner look. 'Anne is pretty, and people like to look at her but we did a few tests and refugees wanted a sense of peace and a serious, older lady.' A spokesman for the ministry of social affairs and employment told the AD: 'In principle, the current manner screening takes place is satisfactory, although labour-intensive. We are following the developments around Eva.' The Virtask website explains that the 2D assistant Anne has various helpful qualities in stressful situations. 'Anne never feels uncertain or apprehensive about her job,' it says.  More >

Fewer cars stolen in the Netherlands

Taxi touts banned from Schiphol airport, face fines of €350 There was a 9% drop in the number of private cars stolen in the Netherlands last year, according to anti car crime foundation AVc. In total, 9,179 cars were reported stolen over the year. This is a 'historic low,' the organisation said. There was also a 2% rise in the number of stolen cars being recovered. The biggest drop - 27% - was recorded in the theft of cars which are less than three years old. This is largely due to improved alarms and better technology to trace cars, making it more difficult for thieves to steal them and sell them on, the organisation said. In total, 26,118 cars, motorbikes, caravans and lorries were stolen last year, a drop of 10% on 2015.   More >

DIY integration flops, says audit office

Taxi touts banned from Schiphol airport, face fines of €350 The number of people passing the compulsory integration test within three years has plunged by 50% since new rules were introduced in 2013, the national audit office said in a damning report on Tuesday. In particular, refugees find it hard to pass  - only one third managed to do so within the allotted time frame, the report said. In addition, the number of people taking the more difficult language tests has plummeted from 20% to just 2%. 'Everyone benefits from a fast and dynamic integration policy,' spokesman Kees Vendrik said. 'The current policy does not bring results.' Since 2013, people who are required by law to go through the integration process - most non-EU citizens with some exceptions - have to pay for lessons themselves. They can borrow up to €10,000 to pay for courses. In addition, the provision of courses was transferred from local government to the private sector and €333m was slashed from the budget. Some 165 companies now offer integration courses but there is no proper system of quality control.  Nor is there any proof that going through an integration course actually means that new arrivals participate more in Dutch society, the report said. Information The audit office concludes that giving new arrivals responsibility to go through the integration process does not work and that most need support to find their way. Limited information - often in Dutch only - is an added problem. In addition, the education level of new arrivals should be taken into account so that the success of the process can be quantified more accurately, the audit office said. It recommends that local councils be charged with providing proper information and that there be more transparency in the quality and success rate of the different courses. Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher, who brought in the changes, said that improvements do need to be made. In particular, he said, he is taking steps to improve monitoring of course quality and will improve his reporting to parliament about the success rates and other issues.  More >