Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2814)

Big Dutch cities call for public holiday to mark end of slavery

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The leaders of the four big Dutch cities have written to parliament urging the next cabinet to do more to shine light on the Netherlands’ ‘hidden and difficult’ slave trade history, the Parool reported on Friday.

‘The stories of slavery and colonial history must be spoken about openly,’ the council chiefs of Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht are quoted as saying in their letter.

The options include a public holiday on July 1, national research into the country’s colonial past and a specialist agency to combat racism and discrimination, the council leaders suggest.

Slavery in the shadows of the Golden Age Amsterdam and Rotterdam have recently carried out research into the cities’ colonial history and involvement in the slave trade and slave ownership.

Similar studies are underway in Utrecht and The Hague. ‘But it’s not only the cities that have a past,’ the council chiefs say in their letter, urging national government to implement a nationwide research project.

The results of this nationwide research could form the foundation for deciding if the Netherlands should apologise for its role in the international slave trade, they suggest.

Amsterdam is expected to make such a gesture on July 1, when the end of slavery in the Netherlands is marked, and Rotterdam is considering taking a similar step. The Dutch Afro-Surinamese community has been pressing for July 1 to become a public holiday, as it is in Suriname, and a majority of Amsterdam city council backs the move.

This year, Amsterdam is also giving away a book on the city’s slavery past to everyone who wants a copy via libraries and the city hall. The Dutch government has no plans at the moment to offer an apology for slavery and the Dutch role in the slave trade, prime minister Mark Rutte said last year.

Two of the four coalition parties – D66 and ChristenUnie – had called on the government to take a stand but, Rutte said, a formal apology could end up increasing polarisation.

In 2023, it will be 150 years since legislation to abolish slavery was actually enacted in the Netherlands.



Autistic man set out of home ‘after growing single cannabis plant’: RTL Nieuws

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The mayor of a town in North Brabant has been accused of acting too harshly after allegedly setting a severely autistic man out of his home when he was discovered with a cannabis plant.

In October 2019, 34-year-old Robin said he had grown a single plant in a forest nearby his home in Bergeijk, according to RTL Nieuws. He was drying the branches and leaves at home when neighbours smelled it and called the police, who confiscated the plant and judged the amount to be high enough to sell.

Apparently against the advice of the man’s guidance counsellor and some city council staff, the mayor of Bergeijk Arinda Callewaert decided to close his home under strict opium laws, reports RTL Nieuws.

‘I didn’t cause any nuisance,’ Robin told the organisation, saying that smoking cannabis helped him deal with stress and tension. ‘I don’t have dangerous wiring or growing conditions.

It wasn’t a dealer’s house where people came to buy weed every other day.’ The consequences for him were homelessness, the loss of his new job, and a huge psychological impact now that he is living in other, temporary accommodation, he said.


His case adds to criticism of strict drugs law, dubbed the ‘sword of Damocles’, which allows majors to shut buildings and houses suspected of links with drugs and criminality.

Last month, the ombudsman for Rotterdam told that there are scores of innocent victims of these closures and that they may effectively bypass people’s housing rights.

In the case of Robin, reports RTL Nieuws, his support team told the mayor of Bergeijk eviction would be catastrophic for the man, who had just finished training and found work.

‘Things were going well for him, but then he got that message [about his building being closed] and it all disappeared,’ his coach reportedly said. ‘It was disastrous for him.’ There were also apparently voices raised at the town council that Robin was not a criminal but a vulnerable citizen whom it had a duty to protect.


Mayor Callewaert told RTL Nieuws that they did not respond on individual cases. ‘On the basis of information from various parties, the decision was taken to close the building,’ she reportedly said.

‘It is possible to take legal action against this decision, but this was not done.’ A spokeswoman for the National Ombudsman told that they had not been alerted to this case.

‘As ombudsman, we always say in general that if a citizen is pitted against the government – especially in a case that could involve the closure of a home – all specific personal circumstances need to be properly weighed up,’ said Sharon Bartels. ‘People can make a protest against the decision and it’s not one that is taken lightly.

These are complex cases.’ In the Netherlands, smoking cannabis is tolerated and according to the law, police take no action if someone is growing up to five plants for personal use.

Commercial growing is, however, illegal. has contacted the man’s counsellor and Bergeijk council for a comment.

A spokeswoman for the housing association De Zaligheden, where the man lived, told that the RTL Nieuws report was not the full story, and that the house closure was ‘not about one plant’, but did not elaborate futher.



Coalition talks reach stalemate; parties urged to do hard thinking this weekend

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The cabinet formation process has reached an impasse and the six parties left in the talks should meet this weekend to discuss how they think the stalemate can be solved, negotiator Mariëtte Hamer said on Friday afternoon.

Hamer spoke to reporters after holding talks with all six parties – the four current coalition members plus GroenLinks and the PvdA – to assess what should happen next. While the substantive part of her assignment is almost ready, Hamer said it has not yet been possible to find a group of parties that want to work together.

Therefore, this weekend, she said, she has asked them to make the necessary breakthrough. ‘They really have to do that together,’ she said. NOS said earlier on Friday there were three options on the table.

One involves asking VVD leader Mark Rutte and D66 leader Sigrid Kaag to write a draft coalition agreement, the second would involve giving Rutte the job alone. Then the other parties would be asked if they were able to support these plans.

The third option, NOS said, involves putting the six parties together and seeing who drops out. What are they on about? Untangling Dutch political jargon All six have said they are not opposed to being part of the cabinet, but there are underlying problems.

D66, for example, does not want to rule with ChristenUnie for a second time, and the PvdA and GroenLinks have said they want to remain together. However, the VVD and CDA have said they don’t want to work in a cabinet with two left-wing parties.



Man who drove over Marken teen won’t face manslaughter charges

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The 28-year-old German national who killed a 14-year-old girl after driving over her in the dark will not face charges relating to her death.

Tamar, from the former island of Marken left her home after a row about bedtimes and was killed by a car on a dyke road in July last year. Forensic tests have shown that the girl was lying on the road when she was run over, although it is not clear if she had fallen or had deliberately lain down.

The driver has been fined €1,500 for not paying proper attention to the road. He had told police he had been using the navigation system at the time that he thought he had driven over something, probably an animal.

‘But there is no evidence the driver was reckless or driving without due care,’ the public prosecution department said in a statement. He was also known to have been driving at 60kph, even though the maximum speed on the road is 80 kph.

The man had reported to police after an appeal by the girl’s parents.



Concern post-exam holidays could drive up corona infections

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 200 Dutch teenagers have tested positive for coronavirus after coming back from post-exam celebrations in resorts such as Mallorca, the RIVM has confirmed.

The public health agency is concerned that travel to other European countries could trigger a new wave of infections, as happened last year when a surge in cases in Spain and the south of France rippled out to the Netherlands in July.

In its latest weekly bulletin, the RIVM reported 191 cases in people who had travelled to Spain in the previous two weeks and 134 in visitors to Portugal. The cases represent 3.6% of all positive tests in the last week.

Portugal, the Balearic Islands, and the Canary Islands are currently considered yellow risk by the foreign ministry, meaning travellers are not required to take a coronavirus test before coming home and do not have to quarantine when they return.

The RIVM said infections were declining less slowly in the 15 to 19 age group, particularly in and around Amsterdam. ‘We are seeing in Amsterdam that many exam students are coming back with infections,’ a spokesman told the Parool.

‘These are mainly holidaymakers from Mallorca.’ Coronavirus infections have been falling by more than 30% a week since the start of June, but in the Amsterdam-Amstelland and Gooi en Vechtstreek health board (GGD) regions the rate has started to creep back up in recent days.

Infections have been detected at five schools: the Amsterdams Lyceum, the Sint Nicolaas Lyceum, the Vierde Gymnasium, the Berlage Lyceum and the IVKO. The schools have taken extra precautions including asking all students to test themselves the night before sitting an exam.

The RIVM is concerned about the risk of tourists catching the Delta variant, which has sparked a rise in cases in the UK, especially as Mallorca is a popular destination for British youngsters.

The agency has urged people returning from trips to Spain and Portugal to book a PCR test when they come home even if they have no symptoms. Student Arte Weggemans told the Parool that one of his friends tested positive after falling ill shortly after coming back from Mallorca.

‘Maybe it was naive, but I didn’t expect this,’ said the 17-year-old, who has had a negative test result. ‘We all took a negative PCR test before we left, so we must have become infected in Mallorca.’



VMT to host Pop-up Vaccination in St. Peters on Saturday at the Jose Lake Ballpark

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Vaccination Management Team (VMT) encourages everyone who hasn't received their vaccination yet to come to the vaccination Pop-Up at the Jose Lake Ballpark on Saturday, June 19th, between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM or until the supply lasts.

All the persons who received their first dose three weeks ago, are invited to come for their second dose, but first doses are also given to all who wishes to be vaccinated.

The VMT is pleased to see a steady 150 to 200 persons every day walking in for their first dose but emphasizes that we still have a long way to go to reach herd immunity and to go back to normalcy. The VMT says that the country is currently at 46% while we need to get to 85%. Only when we reach that level can life return to normal again, which means easing COVID-19 restrictions, unrestricted travel, economic recovery (more jobs), and celebratory events such as Jump-ups and Carnival.

Additionally, the mass vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine will stop on July 31st, meaning that July 9th will be the last day you can come for your first dose and then to get your second dose three weeks later.

Vaccination will always be a personal choice, but every choice has consequences. The world around us, is changing. So, when you choose not to get vaccinated, you endanger the health of others and put the future of our island at risk. However, with your choice to take the vaccine, you reduce the chance of infection and infecting others by 95%.

1.4 billion people worldwide have taken the vaccine, which is scientifically proven to be safe. Your choice is also a social one, as the future of our island depends on it. The VMT encourages everyone to not only get vaccinated but also encourage others to do so.

Inquire if people in your social circle are vaccinated and try to spread correct information instead of fake news. Offer to drive and accompany someone to a vaccination location. We are stronger together, and we can only reach our goal collectively. Persons who wish to volunteer with the outreach campaign can send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and organizations who wish to organize an information session can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lastly, the VMT also encourages local businesses to stand up and promote vaccination, not only to their staff but the general public. Getting our country sufficiently protected against the COVID-19 virus and variants is in everyone's best interest.

The VMT encourages everyone to join the movement, become creative, and do whatever they can to promote our Drive to 85! We have to do it together.

Sint Maarten Protected Together.


Poland, Romania, most of Croatia cleared for foreign travel

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of options for people living in the Netherlands to go on holiday or to visit family and friends, expanded on Wednesday, with changes in the foreign ministry’s recommendations affecting eight countries.

Cyprus, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and most of Croatia now have a yellow risk advisory note, as do the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos and Mykonos while Poland and Romania are now considered risk free.

Although the foreign ministry has cleared these areas for foreign travel, some countries are still placing restrictions on Dutch nationals. Switzerland, for example, has a 10-day quarantine requirement while travellers to Croatia have to show a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours, or be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to departure.

Iceland, Poland, and Romania are now categorized as green, the lowest risk level. Again in these countries there are restrictions on foreign visitors. Poland requires non-vaccinated visitors to undergo a test on arrival or to go into quarantine for 10 days, unless they have been vaccinated.

In total, 20 countries or regions in Europe have now been cleared for foreign travel. On Tuesday, the public health agency RIVM earned that youngsters returning from celebrating passing their school leaving exams in Portugal and on the Spanish islands should do a test on their return as a precaution.

Travellers to a yellow or green risk country do not have to have a negative test or go into quarantine when they get back to the Netherlands.



More high street stores are being left empty in biggest Dutch cities

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Officials in the biggest Dutch cities are concerned about the sharp increase in the number of vacant shops and are warning that shopping streets may become increasingly dilapidated, the Financieele Dagblad said on Wednesday.

Last week, Utrecht’s economic affairs chief Klaas Verschuure wrote to MPs on behalf of the six biggest cities calling for action, the FD, which has seen the letter, said. ‘We see enormous sales losses, vacancies in some streets going up to 40% and a big drop in tourist numbers,’ he wrote.

‘That is leading to pockets of empty shops, opening the door to degradation and criminal activity in the short to mid-term.’

Vacancy rates have risen sharply in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and Eindhoven, according to figures from research group Locatus. In Amsterdam, the vacancy rate has more than doubled to 4.8% and although this is less than the national average of 7.5%, more shops are being left empty than are being opened.

In the city centre Kalverstraat, 6% of the retail space is now vacant. Some landlords have cut rents in an effort to boost the number of new contracts. Colliers estimates that the price on the best locations in Amsterdam has gone down from €2,700 to €2,250 per square metre per year.

In Utrecht, city centre rents have plummeted 40% within a year, the FD said. The number of shops in the Netherlands has been declining steadily for years.



Amsterdam launches €160,000 tourism campaign for the right visitors

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam has launched its first 2021 campaigns to encourage tourists to return – the right kind of tourists, that is. In a briefing for councillors, head of economic affairs Victor Everhardt said that the city would be investing €100,000 in one campaign advertising such attractions as street art, Europe’s highest swing and fishing for plastic to clean up canals.

Another €60,000 is being invested, he says, by businesses and cultural partners. The campaigns are intended to encourage tourism that will contribute to city life and the economy, as coronavirus infections fall, and the country moves further towards the ‘green’ zone.

‘Bars and restaurants, shops and cultural institutions in Amsterdam have been hard hit by the consequences of the coronavirus crisis,’ said Everhardt in the briefing. ‘Visitors are coming back to our city again and this campaign directs them to types of visits in order to contribute to the economic recovery of the city and the region.’

Alongside this is a campaign to ‘stimulate desired behaviour’, run by economic and tourism promotion body amsterdam&partners, to make it clear that Amsterdam is no longer a destination for no-strings-attached partying.

Geerte Udo, chief executive, said: ‘The campaign is aimed at visitors with an interest in culture in the broadest sense of the word. It is extremely important right now to support the sector and bring the city back to life by attracting visitors who bring something to the city themselves.’

According to Amsterdam’s economic affairs department, tourism tax represented €133.6m in income for the city in 2019 but this fell to €56.5m last year. Before the coronavirus pandemic, 10% of the city’s jobs were in tourism and the total economic value of the industry in Amsterdam was €18.6bn.

The message of stimulating respectful tourism, while increasing policing and on-the-spot fines for unwanted behaviour, has been welcomed by city councillors. ‘These are excellent rules in line with our vision: visitors are welcome, but not at any price,’ said councillor Dennis Boutkan of the PvdA Labour party.

‘This is why it’s good to have a set of measures to combat nuisance. ‘Above all, we want visitors who enjoy Amsterdam and come to our city consciously for culture or events, our rich history, museums and the relaxed nightlife,’ he said. ‘As well as those who go “on safari” in the undiscovered parts outside the centre like the Zuidoost, Noord and Nieuw West.’



Dutch court asked to rule border police ethnic profiling illegal

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A Dutch campaigner and local politician is taking the border police force KMar to court on Wednesday over an ethnic profiling case dating back to 2018, which could have EU-wide implications.

Mpanzu Bamenga was singled out for special questioning at passport control at Eindhoven airport after returning from Rome where he had attended a conference. Dressed in a suit, he was walking fast, other indicators, it later transpired, for resembling a ‘Nigerian money smuggler’.

When he asked why he had been pulled over Bamenga was told that they were looking for criminals and refugees. He thought he looked like someone the police were looking for, but when another black man and woman with children were also taken out of the queue, he realized it was a clear case of ethnic profiling.

‘It made me angry,’ he told RTL Nieuws. ‘Ethnic profiling is not about me personally, it affects many people.’ Bamenga, a councillor in Eindhoven on behalf of D66, made a formal complaint about the incident.

But on Wednesday he is taking it further, by asking the courts to draw the line and ban ethnic profiling altogether. The case is supported by Amnesty International, Control Alt Delete, discrimination register RADAR, human rights lawyers (NJCM) and a pilot of Surinamese origin.

Against the law

‘There is a lot at stake,’ said Dionne Abdoelhafiezkhan, of Control Alt Delete. ‘We know that not only KMar but also the police and other law enforcement agencies work with ethnically loaded risk profiles.

We hope that the judge will quickly put an end to this form of discrimination.’

Predictive profiles

KMar said in a statement that they do not carry out ethnic profiling but do use predictive profiling, and that someone can be selected for checks based on ‘different indicators, knowledge and experience, and information (such as trends or other incidents).’

Ethnicity, the police said, can be a relevant indicator in this. Human rights lawyer Jelle Klaas, writing for the EU Observer, said that the Dutch Supreme Court, has previously ruled that ethnicity may play a role in risk profiles, unless it becomes a decisive element.

Perceived nationality

‘Our argument is that the use of ethnicity or a proxy such as “perceived nationality” (e.g. Nigerian) in a risk-profile results in discrimination, because it will always be a decisive element for the selection of a person,’ Klaas said.

‘These border controls are inconsistent with the EU’s fundamental values of equality and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.’

Klaas said he believes the case can inspire and support litigation on ethnic profiling in other EU member states as well.


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