Dutch bat­tle surge of des­per­ate, vi­o­lent Mus­lim refugees

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY GOR­DON DAR­ROCH

THE HAGUE | Nasir Galid fled So­ma­lia hop­ing for a bet­ter, safer life. In­stead, he died in an Am­s­ter­dam hos­pi­tal five days after be­ing at­tacked in a garage where he was liv­ing with other home­less im­mi­grants.

Galid, 26, was one of about 100 refugees who have been roam­ing the Dutch cap­i­tal for more than two years, oc­cu­py­ing empty of­fices, aban­doned garages and a dis­used church. All of them were sup­posed to have left the coun­try after Dutch au­thor­i­ties re­jected their asy­lum claims.

Po­lice ar­rested two men, both in their early 30s, shortly after Galid’s as­sault in Au­gust. It’s not clear why Galid was at­tacked, but Pim Fis­cher, a Haar­lem lawyer who rep­re­sents some of Galid’s fel­low refugees, said many of them are des­per­ate and vi­o­lent.

“Many of them are trau­ma­tized by their ex­pe­ri­ences, and they are be­ing of­fered no fu­ture,” Mr. Fis­cher said. “The risks are very high.”

The Dutch Refugee Coun­cil es­ti­mates that 100,000 peo­ple live il­le­gally in the Nether­lands. Many are asy­lum seek­ers who are sup­posed to leave the coun­try within 24 hours after the gov­ern­ment re­jects their re­quests to re­main. In­stead, they take over aban­doned build­ings as squat­ters or set up makeshift shel­ters.

The prob­lem is ex­pected to grow. A record 137,000 peo­ple moved to the Nether­lands from other coun­tries in 2013, though most were le­gal im­mi­grants in a coun­try that hosts many Euro­pean head­quar­ters of multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions.

Since 2008, the Dutch gov­ern­ment has taken an in­creas­ingly hard line on im­mi­gra­tion as of­fi­cials try to al­lay pub­lic con­cerns about over­crowd­ing in Europe’s most densely pop­u­lated na­tion.

Right-wing pop­ulist leader Geert Wilders has played an out­sized role in the de­bate.

Mr. Wilders’ anti-im­mi­grant Free­dom Party has been the third-largest group in the past two Dutch elec­tions, in 2010 and 2012. He has used that po­si­tion to pres­sure the gov­ern­ment to “de-Is­lamize” the Nether­lands, where Mus­lims make up about 5 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion of 16.8 mil­lion.

His lat­est cam­paign, an­nounced last month, calls for ev­ery­one hold­ing a pass­port from a Mus­lim-majority coun­try to sign a dec­la­ra­tion for­mally re­nounc­ing Shariah law.

“If they don’t do that, there should be no place for them in the Nether­lands,” Mr. Wilders said in a par­lia­men­tary de­bate. “Shariah is hate.”

From 2010 through 2012, Dutch prime min­is­ters have re­lied on the votes of the Free­dom Party to stay in power. In re­turn, Mr. Wilders has se­cured con­ces­sions in a range of pol­icy ar­eas, in­clud­ing im­mi­gra­tion.

His pro­pos­als to block ar­rivals from Is­lamic coun­tries, tax Is­lamic head­scarves and im­pose a Swiss-style ban on new minarets at mosques failed, but he made his mark in other ways.

Three years ago, NATO asked the Nether­lands to ac­cept 250 Libyans wounded in the North African coun­try’s civil war. After Mr. Wilders protested, the num­ber was re­duced to 52.

“I have no de­sire to put ca­su­al­ties from an Is­lamic coun­try in a Dutch hos­pi­tal,” he said at the time.

Un­rest in the streets of The Hague over the sum­mer has bol­stered Mr. Wilder’s po­si­tion. In July, two demon­stra­tions against Is­rael’s in­ter­ven­tion in the Gaza Strip be­came ral­lies in support of the Is­lamic State. The ter­ror­ist group’s sup­port­ers waved black flags and cheered speeches de­nounc­ing “the damned Jews, the damned Zion­ists, the damned oc­cu­piers of Mus­lim coun­tries.”

In re­sponse, a far-right group call­ing it­self Pro Pa­tria (For the Fa­ther­land) marched in Au­gust in Schilder­swijk, a dis­trict in The Hague where 90 per­cent of res­i­dents are for­eign-born. Po­lice had to halt the march after a group of res­i­dents be­gan throw­ing stones at the Pro Pa­tria mem­bers. The Hague Mayor Jozias van Aart­sen has since banned demon­stra­tions in the sub­urb.

“Our demon­stra­tions are aimed at rad­i­cal Mus­lims, not against Is­lam,” Pro Pa­tria or­ga­nizer Pa­trick Schouten told De Volk­skrant, a Dutch news­pa­per. “We want stronger ac­tion against Mus­lim ex­trem­ism.”

Dutch mod­er­ates also have voiced con­cerns about the spread of rad­i­cal Is­lam in the Nether­lands.

The Dutch Gen­eral In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity Ser­vice es­ti­mates that 140 Dutch Mus­lims have gone to Syria to fight in the civil war. The agency’s head of coun­tert­er­ror­ism, Dick Schoof, said the 30 com­bat­ants who have re­turned pose a “sub­stan­tial” risk to the coun­try.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ron­ald Plasterk warned re­cently that 1,000 ji­hadist sym­pa­thiz­ers were con­cen­trated in 10 neigh­bor­hoods across the coun­try.

Of­fi­cials are propos­ing to strip Syria fight­ers of their Dutch na­tion­al­ity when­ever pos­si­ble — in­ter­na­tional law does not al­low gov­ern­ments to ren­der peo­ple state­less — or can­cel their pass­ports.

Syr­ian refugees also have strained the Nether­lands’ asy­lum sys­tem. Since the start of the year, more than 6,000 refugees from the war have ar­rived. Ju­nior Jus­tice Min­is­ter Fred Teeven warned this month that the con­verted bar­racks and for­mer prisons hous­ing asy­lum seek­ers are at full ca­pac­ity.

The gov­ern­ment has ap­pro­pri­ated an ex­tra $480 mil­lion to build more ac­com­mo­da­tions, but the Dutch Refugee Coun­cil says ad­di­tional ac­tion is needed to en­sure that refugees do not end up on the streets or in squats like the one where Galid stayed, with no hot wa­ter, in­ter­mit­tent elec­tric­ity and ex­posed wiring.

“As long as the Dutch gov­ern­ment says they have to re­turn, they are il­le­gal and they end up liv­ing on the street,” said coun­cil spokes­woman An­ner­iek Dekker. “If some­one has been turned down for asy­lum, they should be given shel­ter for as long as it takes. That’s the only way they can fo­cus on the pos­si­bil­ity of re­turn­ing home.”

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