Brits sue Dutch government to keep EU nationality and rights

Four British nationals living in the Netherlands are suing the Dutch government for clarity about their continued rights to be EU citizens – deal or no deal. As MPs in Westminster prepare to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit accord, the four have brought a civil case in which they accuse the Dutch government of giving unclear and inaccurate advice. In a court hearing in Amsterdam on Monday, they asked a judge to help them confirm whether they can work, study or travel abroad in the next 18 months without losing their rights and benefits in the Netherlands. Lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, of bureau Brandeis, said the Britons he is representing are living in ‘massive uncertainty’. He claimed that under EU law their EU citizenship is now an ‘autonomous right’ that cannot be taken away, and that the IND immigration service is giving damaging, ‘incorrect and misleading’ advice. The case is a follow-up to an attempt last year to force the European Court of Justice to rule on the rights of individual British citizens under article 20 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union. Earlier this month foreign minister Stef Blok announced that the government would make a ‘decent solution’ for Brits in the Netherlands, so they could stay with or without a Brexit deal. His two-and-a-half page letter outlines a 15-month transition period, after which the British nationals in the Netherlands will need a special permit. This week, around 45,000 British immigrants to the Netherlands received a letter from the IND saying ‘British nationals are no longer EU citizens as of 29 March 2019’, and asking them to apply for a residence permit for after 1 July 2020. 'Landlocked' But the court case claims that the IND assertion that Brits will automatically and globally lose their EU citizenship is incorrect, and says that they may be unjustly ‘landlocked’ during the Dutch 15-month transition period. They want to know if their children can study abroad in London, for instance, without losing their rights to return to the Netherlands, and whether they can work abroad without losing pensions and residency. Lawyers defending the state argued that the case should be brought before a different court for immigration matters, adding that the only ‘damages’ the defendants would suffer as third country applicants for Dutch residency would be that ‘they would have to follow language courses.’ Politics They argued that the ‘complex politics’ around Brexit meant that the state could not provide more clarity to Brits in the Netherlands, and that the matter was not urgent. According to the CBS national statistics agency, there are over 47,000 first generation British nationals in the Netherlands plus a further 38,500 children and adults who were born here, most of whom are dual nationals. The Dutch government estimated that without some kind of deal or permit, 20,000 British adults would lose access to the jobs market. The judge asked for an extended period of three weeks before ruling. ‘I understand your wish to have clarity from the justice system,’ she told the plaintiffs. ‘A lot of people, perhaps also from the government’s side, understand this too. But I must judge this from a judicial point of view, on the legal arguments.’ She added that she would take into account the result of the Brexit accord vote and future UK developments. You can comment on this in the comments section below  More >

Nature reserve deer cull is slow progress

Rangers culling deer on the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve have shot far fewer animals than expected so far, and their number has now been doubled to 16 in an effort to pick up the slack, website said on Tuesday. In total, some 1,830 deer are scheduled for slaughter in an effort to reduce the size of the population to 490, which is considered to be a sustainable number for the reserve. So far, 134 deer have been shot, of which 112 have been cleared for human consumption. The hunting season will continue until April 1. This means fewer than 10 deer a day are being killed, half the speed need to finish the cull by the end of March. The final legal obstacle to the controversial cull was cleared in November. Three nature organisations had gone to court in an effort to have the permits ruled illegal, saying the noise of the shooting would disturb birds, including sea eagles. Large mammals The cull was prompted because some experts say the reserve has become overcrowded with large mammals. More than half the 5,230 deer, ponies and cattle living on the reserve near Almere died last winter – most were shot by forestry commission staff because they were starving. Large mammals were introduced in the reserve in the 1980s and 1990s to eat young shoots, keeping the area open so it will attract geese and other wetland birds. In the original plan, the reserve was to be linked to the Veluwe region, but that was scrapped as part of budget cuts. Flevoland province has been in charge of the reserve since 2016 and a majority of provincial councillors want to open the area up to tourism.  More >

More refugee families vanish from centres

Last year, 360 asylum seekers disappeared from family refugee accommodation in the Netherlands, of whom 210 were children, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday. The total is a 20% rise on 2017, while the number of people living in the family deportation centres fell from 1,770 to 1,300, the paper said. 'The fear of detention and deportation is so huge that families are opting to disappear into the illegal sector rather than go back to their country of origin where their perspectives are zero,' Martine Goeman, a lawyer with child rights organisation Defence for Children told the paper. The 'sober' locations for families awaiting deportation were set up in 2011 but some families live in them for years because they are still involved in legal proceedings, Goeman said. 'Residents regularly see parents and children being taken away in the early hours by 10 men in uniform as if they were criminals,' she said. 'Those fears become too much for them. They reach the end of their tether.' Children who are threatened with deportation after long-term residency in the Netherlands suffer from chronic stress and have a higher risk of showing impulsive behaviour, according to VU University professor Erik Scherder, who has studied the impact. Amnesty Last month, broadcaster NOS reported that just 80 of the 1,400 children turned down for a residency permit under the amnesty for well-rooted child refugees can be shown to have left the Netherlands. Some 740 children are still in the Netherlands without a permit, 400 were able to get one via another route and 180 have disappeared. All have been in the Netherlands for at least five years and the large majority at least 10 years, NOS said. Handful In total, 740 of the 2140 children who have applied for a permit via the amnesty since it was established six years ago have been granted the right to stay. But most of them were given refugee status in 2013 and only a handful have been successful since then. Children can qualify for the amnesty if they have lived in the Netherlands for more than five years, have been under the supervision of an official organisation and are under the age of 18. Being in touch with local councils and going to school is not sufficient to qualify for the amnesty because these bodies do not have a role in law in immigration policy and are therefore not ‘official’. In addition, children are ruled ineligible if their parents have not cooperated with efforts to deport them – which rules out nearly everyone.  More >

Dutchman dies in avalanche in French alps

A Dutchman has been killed by an avalanche while out skiing with his 22-year-old son and a third person near the French alpine resort of Valmorel. According to local media, the man was skiing off piste when the avalanche hit. The son was able to dig his father out of the snow but medical help came too late, local papers said. The risk of avalanches in the Savoie region is high because of heavy snowfall and this is likely to be made worse on Tuesday because of the forecast sunshine, the local rescue service said.   More >

Dutch farmers warned to ready for Brexit

The Dutch government has warned farmers and market gardeners to properly prepare for Britain's departure from the EU so they are not faced with 'surprises'. For example, waiting times for border checks may mount up and increased import taxes will also have to be taken into account, the government said in a statement. 'Cooperation is of major importance within the Dutch agro sector to make sure that fresh products such as cucumbers and tomatoes reach British clients as soon as possible after Britain's withdrawal from the EU,' the statement said. Last November the customs department urged companies exporting to Britain to draw up a plan to cope with the new regulations and ABN Amro has warned that the transport sector is particularly vulnerable to the impact of Brexit. British food industry experts have also warned that tomatoes are one of the products which could disappear from supermarket shelves in the event of a no deal Brexit. Britain is a major destination for Dutch-grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Emergency laws Meanwhile, the Christian Democrats and D66 continue to have 'major objections' to the emergency law which foreign minister Stef Blok plans to enact in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Despite amendments following earlier objections, they are still concerned the the law would give ministers the right to withdraw or amend a law without parliamentary approval, broadcaster NOS reported on Monday. Instead, they say that the extra powers should last for six months at most, and that parliament should have to approve all changes to legislation within 10 weeks. 'Parliament cannot be completely sidelined,' D66 MP Kees Verhoeven said. 'These changes would bring back balance to the bill.' MPs will debate the proposal next week.  More >

Provinces want back flopped factory cash

Oost NL, the provincial agency which stimulates new business in Overijssel and Gelderland, has called on Hengelo-based battery company Lithium Werks to return a €7.5m loan made to establish a new factory in Enschede. The project, presented last September, has now been scrapped and the founder Kees Koolen has pulled out of the firm, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Tuesday. The Enschede project would have created 1,000 jobs. 'We invest public money to boost the local economy,' Oost NL director Marius Prins told the FD. 'Now there will be no campus and no headquarters, it is only logical that the cash is returned.' The agency and Lithium Werks are due to hold talks on Tuesday, the paper said. Koolen has also removed his company Super B from the Lithium Werks umbrella and plans to build this company up in the Netherlands himself. 'Oost NL made a good first step but we needed a lot more money,' he is quoted as saying by the FD. 'US investors wanted the activities to be established closer to them. They wanted more control.' According to a Lithium Werks statement, Koolen remains a shareholder and supporter of Lithium Werks, and 'the two companies will continue to cooperate closely going forward'. In October, the company Lithium Works signed a deal to build a massive battery factory in China together with Chinese firm Zheijiang Jiashan in a €1.6bn deal.  More >