A prominent MP and member of the ruling VVD has apologised for suggesting that refugees come to the Netherlands for cosmetic surgery, the Volkskrant says on Monday.
Halbe Zijlstra, who leads the VVD in parliament, made the comments in the AD newspaper when he was asked at what point refugees could be refused medical care.
‘If they need emergency help then we will help. But plastic surgery – eye-lid lifts, breast enlargements and dental work – that sort of thing, absolutely not,’ Zijlstra said. Asked if this happened on a wide scale, Zijlstra said. ‘No and we should not pretend that it does. But it does happen.’
The comments led to a storm of criticism on social media. ‘Zijlstra himself needs an eye operation so he can read health insurance policies and witness the violence which people are fleeing from,’ GroenLinks senator Tineke Strik said on Twitter.
In a reaction, Zijlstra admitted his statement was misplaced. ‘This was a mistake,’ Zijlstra is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant in a short VVD video, which is now offline.
During the AD interview Zijlstra said refugees should be provided with only very basic facilities which will make the country unattractive to new arrivals.
Those on temporary residence permits ‘can live on €20 in container-like accommodation,’ Zijlstra said. Converted shipping containers are a popular solution for housing shortages in the Netherlands and often lived in by students.
Zijlstra also wants to cut the length of a temporary permit from five to one year, says steps need to be taken to limit family reunions and that it should be harder to become Dutch. The refugee situation is leading to a ‘deep, deep crisis’.
Meanwhile, the Liberal democratic party D66 has called on the government to do more to ensure refugees learn Dutch quickly and are helped into jobs.
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