Dutch asylum minister poised to resign over 'hidden' crime figures

Junior justice minister Mark Harbers has indicated he expects to resign, following the publication of police figures which ‘hid’ the number of asylum seekers suspected of serious crimes. Harbers said in a written statement to MPs that the mistake was his responsibility and that he wishes to debate the issue in parliament before ‘drawing his own conclusions’ – a euphemism for stepping down. It is unclear when the debate will take place. The figures, which were published last week, included suspicions of rape (4) and murder (31) under the heading ‘other’. Harbers was then accused of attempting to hide the figures. Harbers said that the ministry had been warned not to come up with a top 10 crimes for which asylum seekers were suspects because that meant serious crime would be hidden. However, civil servants had not taken that advice, Harbers said. Harbers told MPs he now wants to be fully transparent about the figures ‘because this is the only way to maintain support for the cabinet’s refugee policy’. Fake refugees The figures showed ‘fake’ asylum seekers who come from so-called safe countries, namely Morocco and Algeria, were responsible for almost half the 4,600 incidents requiring police intervention. While most cases involved shoplifting or pickpocketing, police also registered cases of physical abuse, threatening behaviour and a further 1,000 incidents listed as ‘other’. The Telegraaf reported on Thursday morning this total included 79 potential sex crimes, including 47 cases of sexual assault, five allegations of child abuse and four alleged rapes plus a string of other violent offences. The figures do not make it clear how many cases eventually went to court and how many asylum seekers were convicted.  More >

Dutch arrest Jabhat al-Nusra suspect

A suspected commander of a terrorist Jabhat al-Nusra battalion has been arrested in the Netherlands, police said on Tuesday afternoon. The man, who is 47 and has Syrian nationality, was arrested in the small town of Kapelle in Zeeland on suspicion of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria. He has been in the Netherlands since 2014 and has a temporary asylum permit. The man, police said in a website statement, fought under the name Abu Khuder and his battalion was known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan). The home of a man in Ede was also searched as he is thought to be in contact with the main suspect, police said. At the same time, six homes of other suspected members of Ghuraba’a Mohassan were searched in Germany in a separate investigation. The Dutch arrest followed information from the German police, who provided witness testimonies about the suspect. The man will appear in court on Friday for a remand hearing.  More >

Software sends more crooks back to jail

A prison corridor A new computer system has enabled the police to pick up 585 people who have so far avoided spending time in jail, the AD said on Tuesday. In the Dutch legal system, suspects are not required to turn up in court and so cannot be locked up immediately they are found guilty. Others are given a later date to report to prison. This means thousands of people who should have served time have avoided going to prison. Their details are included in various different registers, making it hard to police to check up on. The new computer system combines these registers into one, so that police can easily check if someone has outstanding jail time. Over 10,000 people are currently on the list. Most of those picked up by the police had short sentences ahead of them and a special police unit focuses on people who have longer sentences for serious crimes. Last year that team made 126 arrests.  More >

Locals threaten action over Tata pollution

The inhabitants of the seaside village of Wijk aan Zee are threatening to take the Noord Holland provincial authorities to court for turning a blind eye to what they say are unlawful emissions by nearby Tata Steel and Harsco, the Volkskrant reports. Action group IJmondig has engaged law firm Prakken d’Oliveira in a bid to force the authorities to act. In a letter to the province, the law firm writes that ‘residents have been continually exposed to unlicenced emissions, grey and orange dust clouds, a rain of graphite and other deposits’. Among the health problems cited are respiratory complaints, headaches, nausea and concentration problems. A spokesman for Tata Steel said the legal move is surprising as IJmondig and the company are in talks to limit the impact of its industrial activities. The Volkskrant said the spokesman is referring to a graphite soot chamber due for completion in 2020 which Tata Steel claims will solve the problem. Effective However, IJmondig lawyer Bondine Kloostra said the province granted permission to build the chamber without a proper investigation into whether or not it would be effective against the pollution. ‘It’s being used as an excuse so the company can claim it is taking action,’ Bondine told the paper. Harsco, an American company which is producing the graphite by processing Tata Steel slag, was last year revealed to have worked without the required environmental permit between 2014 and 2016. Tata Steel itself is accused by the law firm of breaching ‘emission limits’. Noord Holland, which said it would investigate the claims, has four weeks in which to respond to the letter.  More >

Dutch government issues first green bond

The Dutch finance ministry is on Tuesday issuing its first green state bond, the first green bond issued by a European country with a triple A credit rating. The government wants to use the money raised via the bond to finance sustainable projects in the years ahead. The target volume is €4bn to €6bn, but this will be increased to around €10bn in due time, the finance ministry said. Dutch bank ABN Amro, which claims to be a leader in this market, has arranged the subscription among investors and is coordinating allocation of the bond, which will mature in 2040. Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra first announced plans to issue the green bond last October, saying it would ‘represent a solid asset for any green portfolio’. The money raised via the bond will be used for green investments, including wind farms, large bike parks, strengthening dykes and improving home insulation. 'If Dutch pension funds, insurers and banks want to invest in green bonds, at the moment they have to go to foreign providers,' Hoekstra said at Monday's presentation. 'This green bond will help the further development of the green capital market in the Netherlands.'  More >

Baudet not aware of 'gewusst' WWII link

Forum voor Democratie leader Thierry Baudet has told a television programme he does not associate the German phrase 'ich habe es nicht gewusst' with World War II. 'Ich habe es nicht gewusst, or 'I did not know’ is widely used as a catch phrase to describe the response of Germans when questioned about the Holocaust after the war was over. It was used in a short propaganda video about immigration made by a far-right women's group and retweeted by Baudet, with Dutch subtitles, at the weekend. 'I don't have that association', Baudet, who has a degree in history, twice told television show Goedemorgen Nederland when asked about the use of the phrase. The phrase ‘Ich habe es gewusst’ (I did know) is also stamped over photos of Mark Rutte, Jesse Klaver and Rob Jetten which have been added to the end of the film. Baudet ignored questions about who had made the additions. In the interview Baudet also said that comments made by him in an essay about a new book by French writer Michel Houellebecq had been taken out of context. Baudet has come under fire for discussing the role of women in society, and appearing to blame the drive for equality with a lower birth rate and 'the demographic decline of Europe' in the critique. He also suggests that both abortion and euthanasia are part of a cult of the individual. 'In the Netherlands (where I live), suicide is facilitated to ensure that here, too, no constraints—such as the duty to care for your parents—are placed on the indi­vidual,' Baudet said.  More >

Fastned IPO set for June 14

Dutch company Fastned, which is building a European network of fast charging stations for fully electric vehicles, will list on the Amsterdam stock exchange on June 14. The company says the listing will bring more 'flexibility in financing and better access to the capital markets. Since its launch in 2012, Fastned has built a network of 97 fast charging stations in its domestic market, the UK and Germany, of which most are in the Netherlands. The company also plans to open in Belgium, France and Switzerland, where it recently won a tender for 20 locations. 'With over five years of experience in building and operating a network of fast charging stations, we are well positioned to benefit from the accelerating transition to full electric vehicles,' said chief executive Michiel Langezaal. It is not yet clear how many shares the company intends to sell or how much capital it is planning to raise. The company is currently listed on the alternative trading platform Nxchange. Fastned, which has a workforce of 50, booked turnover of €1.6m in 2018 and made a loss of €6.3m.   More >