Dutch foreign minister under fire after ‘crude’ multicultural society comments

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok is under fire after making a string of controversial comments about immigrants and refugees as well as saying he is unaware of any successful multicultural societies.

The comments were made by Blok at private meeting with Dutch nationals who work for international organisations. One of the participants has given television current affairs programme Zembla mobile phone footage of the event.

The source, who wants to remain anonymous, told Zembla many of the participants were shocked by the minister’s words.

‘I have asked my ministry this and I will pose the question here as well,’ Blok said. ‘Give me an example of a multi-ethnic or a multi-cultural society, in which the original population still lives, and where there is a peaceful cohabitation. I don’t know one.’

When one member of the audience suggested Suriname, Blok described the former Dutch colony as a ‘failed state’. ‘And that is largely to do with the ethnic divisions,’ he continued.

Singapore, another example raised by the audience is ‘a mini-country and highly selective in terms of immigration,’ Blok said. ‘It does not let in poor migrants. Well yes, to do the cleaning.’

Immigration

The minister also talked about xenophobia and migration. ‘You very quickly reach the limits of what a society can take,’ he said.

‘So I would also say that I understand the people in Amsterdam West and in the Schilderswijk (a part of The Hague with a large immigrant population). If you live in Benoordenhout (a wealthy part of The Hague), it is great fun to go to the Turkish baker on Sunday. You don’t have to deal with a number of side effects. But if you live right in the middle, you have an enormous amount of trouble.’

The minister focused for part of his presentation on the situation of refugees in Europe.

‘Walk along any street in Warsaw or Prague. There are no coloured people,’ Blok said. These people are gone within a week, they get beaten to a pulp. They have no life there.’

I don’t think we are going to manage to force through an agreement at a central European level that every country will take the same number of refugees. Eastern Europeans will never agree,’ the minister said.

Blok told Zembla in reaction to the film that the meeting was aimed at stimulating participants to exchange views and experiences. ‘My role in the Q&A session was partly to stimulate. I used examples in the closed meeting which could be unfortunate in public debate.’

Reactions

MPs from both the opposition and ruling coalition were quick to react to Blok’s comments. D66 MP Kees Verhoeven described them as ‘incomprehensible’ and has asked for an explanation. VVD parliamentarian Han ten Broek, said the comments were ‘crude’.

‘No one will swear that Suriname is a model state or that migrants are always treated kindly in eastern Europe, but the minister could have made these points with a less crude choice of words.’

Labour MP and former foreign aid minister Lilianne Ploumen said the minister had been ‘extremely unprofessional’. She has filed parliamentary questions asking if the minister’s views on Suriname, Singapore and refugees are cabinet policy.


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