Schiphol fire: minister admits shortcomings

There were shortcomings in the government’s role in the fire at Schiphol deportation centre last year, justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told MPs this afternoon. During the second day of debate on the highly critical official report into the fire in which 11 people died, the minister said the cabinet took the report’s conclusions seriously.

He admitted there were shortcomings and he deeply regretted the state of affairs which had lead to the fire, NOS radio reported. ‘This debate is about responsibility,’ Hirsch Ballin said. ‘It is not about future policy but about what has happened… we certainly want to be called to account for what has happened and to be clear cut about our shortcomings.’ Until now the cabinet has declined to accept the report’s conclusions.
The report into the fire concluded that safety standards had been ignored and said that there would have been fewer or even no deaths had proper building and planning rules been followed. The report led to the resignation of justice minister Piet Hein Donner and planning minister Sybilla Dekker.
Yesterday, immigration minister Rita Verdonk was pressed by MPs from all parties about her statement that officers at the deportation centre had responded ‘adequately’ to the fire. They also called on her to explain what had happened to an official report drawn up 18 months before the fire which warned of potential dangers. Verdonk was due to answer MPs this afternoon.

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