Dutch immigration minister grants me amnesty

Greg Shapiro started 2013 surrounded by CDA politicians who did not laugh at his jokes.

Happy 2013! My new year started out in Limburg.

I was invited to be a guest speaker at the Society of Old Dutch Men. That wasn’t the official name, but that’s how it felt. At the main table was a former member of the Dutch cabinet, from the Christian Democrats (CDA).

Then there was the former Immigration Minister Gerd Leers (CDA), who was in the same cabinet as Geert Wilders. Other than his politics, his eyebrows are amazing. His eyebrows were only to be outdone by the famous former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers (also CDA). The place was crawling with Christian Democrats!


Poking fun

Here’s the thing: my job as a speaker is mostly to poke fun at Dutch culture and politics. Usually, the politicians are not THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE. I got to the point where I talk about Zwarte Piet.

Normally, there are a couple internationals in the audience, to laugh along when I point out how bizarre it seems. Not so today. I also made reference to immigration policy, pointing out that the real Sint Nicolaas is from Turkey. ‘So the biggest Dutch holiday is actually being run by the Turks.’ Anyone? Hello?

Just when I thought I’d be invited to leave the building, I was approached by a man in black with a big, silver cross. He introduced himself as the Bishop of Maastricht, and he said he loved my speech…



Before I knew it, he’d introduced me to Gerd Leers. And there I was, face to face with ‘Mr. Immigration.’ Would he be offended by my speech? Would I somehow end up being deported?

We ended up talking about the big news from last month: the amnesty granted to child asylum-seekers and their families. Mr. Leers said he was glad to see the issue resolved.

He had a nice quote: ‘Make no mistake: If I could, I would grant amnesty to most asylum seekers. But at some point you must realize you are giving a huge gift to the human traffickers.’ And so I got schooled. Apparently, human trafficking is a huge industry, shuttling the poorest people to the West with false promises, in appalling conditions.

Ideally, those poor people should all save up for a ticket on KLM and arrive like civilized people. But until that happens, let’s all take a moment for Human Trafficking Awareness Day.


Greg Shapiro is a comedian who holds American and Dutch nationality

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