Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (2297)

Companies which discriminate face fines and being ‘named and shamed’ in new law

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Companies which discriminate against people on the grounds of race, sex or religion when recruiting new staff face a fine of up to €4,500 and being publicly shamed, if new legislation drawn up by the social affairs ministry is passed by parliament.

The legislation is aimed at tackling inequality on the jobs market and comes after several surveys have shown that discrimination is still a major issue.

‘Equal opportunities and equal treatment on the jobs market cannot be taken as read in the 2020 jobs market,’ said junior minister Tamara van Ark. ‘Tackling jobs market discrimination remains crucial, particularly now the coronavirus crisis means many people will have to look for new work.’

The legislation will require companies to draw up policy to ensure equal opportunities. Companies which fail to do so, or which do not do enough to combat discrimination, will face a fine of €450 for a firm with a workforce of up to five people, rising to €4,500 for large companies.

Companies which fail to improve also face being named and shamed, the minister said. A recent survey of some 2,000 HR professionals for consultancy Berenschot found that just 20% of companies have an active strategy on diversity and 60% don’t focus on the issue at all.

In 2018, researchers for television current affairs show Radar found that many temporary employment agencies are willing to discriminate against people with an ethnic minority background if requested to do so.

Almost half of 78 temporary employment offices phoned by journalists about jobs for a fictional call centre were willing not to send candidates with a Turkish, Moroccan, or Surinamese background.

Social affairs ministry inspectors also reached similar conclusions last year after placing 707 fake cvs online and in jobs banks. While there was no difference in the reactions generated on the basis of sex or age, there was a ‘significant’ difference in the reactions received between minorities and the native Dutch, the ministry said at the time.



Hundreds arrested, tonnes of drugs seized as police intercept crime gang messages

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police have arrested over a hundred suspects in the Netherlands as a result of messages intercepted on encrypted service provider EncroChat, Dutch police and Europol said on Thursday.

Some 20 million exchanges by criminals on the network were read by police before they could be encrypted in what police call ‘an earthquake for organised crime’. EncroChat has around 50,000 users worldwide, 12,000 of whom live in the Netherlands.

The investigation has so far led to the arrest of more than 100 suspects in the Netherlands and the seizure of eight tonnes of cocaine and 1.2 tonnes of crystal meth.

In total, 19 synthetic drugs labs have been dismantled and police have confiscated dozens of (automatic) fire weapons, expensive watches and 25 cars, and almost €20m in cash.

In addition, a large number of suspects have also been arrested in several countries which were not participating in the investigation, including in the UK, Sweden and Norway.

Many of these investigations were connected with international drug trafficking and violent criminal activities, Europol said. According to the Daily Mail, in Britain, 746 people have been arrested.

London’s Met force has detained 132 people – including in the most serious organised crime network in the capital – and seized more than £13.3m in cash as well as machine guns and narcotics.

More arrests are very likely to follow in the coming period, Europol said.


The investigation was set up in 2017 with French police when it came across an increasing number of EncroChat phones, and assisted by European crime fighting agencies Europol and Eurojust.

France has not yet gone public with the results of the investigation on its territory. The operation came to an abrupt end two weeks ago when EncroChat became aware of the software used by police to infiltrate the site.

It then told its users to get rid of the phones.‘It was like sitting in on a meeting of criminals’, Dutch police chief Jannine van den Berg said. It is the fourth time a network used by criminals is infiltrated by police.

In 2016 the server of network provider Ennetcom yielded millions of messages whose content is used to get the group surrounding notorious criminal Ridouan Taghi behind bars.



Wealth gap in the Netherlands much wider than previously thought, say experts

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The wealth gap in the Netherlands is much wider than previously thought, according to a report by four leading economists in economic journal ESB.

The research, quoted by the Volkskrant, suggests the wealthiest 1% of Dutch households own one third of the Netherlands’ private assets, not one quarter as earlier thought.

Using tax office information and their own investigations – plus an earlier hunch based on the billions in the annual Quote 500 rich list – they also conclude that the richest 0.1%, or some 7,750 households, own a sixth, rather than one tenth of the nation’s wealth.

The new findings put wealth inequality in the Netherlands in an entirely different light, the experts, who include four former CPB chief Coen Teulings and Utrecht university economics professor Bas van Bavel, said.

The CBS figures, which indicate that the wealth gap is wide but has been closing since 2014, are ‘too rosy’, they said but that the CBS cannot be blamed for getting it wrong ‘because there is much that happens beyond their knowledge’.

Some 4% of Dutch wealth – some €60bn – has been hidden away in tax havens, for instance. The experts admit that their estimations are not watertight either, because much is unknown about the extent of the wealth accumulated in the Netherlands, and its whereabouts.

They are now urging action by the government to get to the bottom of who owns how much, and where as quickly as possible. The next CBS figures on wealth inequality will only become clear after the tax data of 2020 have been processed, the paper said, and that will not be until the election in March next year.



As Keti Koti is celebrated, the Netherlands is slowly facing up to its slavery past

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Ceremonies and meetings took part at different locations across the Netherlands on Wednesday to commemorate the end of slavery in the Dutch colonies.

The gatherings took place against a backdrop of anti-racism demonstrations across the Netherlands and mounting calls for formal apologies for the Netherlands’ past as a slave trading nation.

Education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said in a speech in Amsterdam that the government has not yet been able to prevent inequality and exclusion. ‘And as long as one Dutch person discriminates against another on the basis of the colour of their skin, then we are still witnesses to this terrible past,’ she said.

Meanwhile, two of the four ruling parties – D66 and ChristenUnie – have both now said that the Dutch government should apologise for the role the Netherlands played in the slave trade.

The apology should be made as part of a wider discussion in society about ‘this black page in our history,’ ChristenUnie leader Gert Jan Segers said. ‘We must reconcile as an entire society with a past that involved in human suffering, which continues to this day.’

MPs are debating racism, discrimination and slavery with ministers on Thursday afternoon.


The government on Wednesday announced it had set up a special committee charged with stimulating dialogue about the country’s role in slavery and the slave trade.

Rapper Typhoon, former Curacao governor Frits Goedgedrag, and former international football player Edgar Davids are among the members of the advisory group.

Home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren said the committee’s focus would be one of ‘reconciliation and a wider recognition of our shared pasts.’

The committee, supported by a group of academics, will make its recommendations to the government prior to May 2021.


Slavery was finally abolished in the former colonies of Suriname and the Dutch Antilles on July 1,1863, ending a period of around 200 years of slavery.

However, slaves in Surinam were only fully freed in 1873, since the law stipulated that there was to be a mandatory 10-year transition period. Owners were also paid compensation of 300 guilders for every enslaved person they released.


Known as Keti Koti (broken chains), the commemorations to celebrate the end of slavery have just been included in a revised list of 50 events which helped shape the Netherlands as it is today.

‘This is the acceptance and the confirmation that our slavery past is a shared past,’ Linda Nooitmeer, chairman of the national institute of slavery studies Ninsee, said in her speech at the main Keti Koti ceremony in Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, a group of anti-racism activists on Wednesday called for ‘Afrophobia’ to be recognised and for specific policy to be developed in an effort to tackle it.

Afrophobia focuses specifically on racism against people of African origin, campaigner and academic Barryl Biekman told broadcaster NOS.

‘It is about more than the fear of people with black skin,’ she said. ‘It is about institutionalised delusions about Africa and African people.’



Slight rise in childhood vaccination rate, but take-up is still below target

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of children being vaccinated in the Netherlands has improved marginally, but the overall rate is still below the target figure of 95%, according to new figures published by public health institute RIVM on Tuesday.

In total, 90.8% of two-year-olds were up to date with their immunisation programme in 2019, a rise of 0.6 percentage point on 2018. Nevertheless, 4.4% of two-year-olds have not had any childhood vaccinations – most of whom live in the Dutch Bible belt, where vaccinations are frowned on in some strict Protestant circles.

The triple MMR jab against measles, mumps and rubella, which was the focus of a long-running anti-vaccination campaign linking it to childhood autism, was given to 93.6% of children, up from 92.8% a year ago.

Take-up of the HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer, rose from 45.5% to 53%. Boys are to be offered this vaccination from next year at the age of nine. Hans van Vliet of the public health institute RIVM told the AD he expects a further rise in vaccination rates in the coming period.

The coronavirus crisis, he said, has really brought home the importance of vaccinations against disease. The Netherlands is a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s strategy to eradicate measles, which includes raising the take-up level to 95%, which is required for herd immunity.



Dutch government invests €20m in Eindhoven photonic chip maker

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government has invested €20m into Eindhoven company Smart Photonics to make sure the technology stays in the Netherlands, junior economic affairs minister Mona Keijzer has confirmed to MPs.

The company produces chips which work on the basis of light rather than electricity, which means they can process data more quickly and use less energy. The investment will allow the company to scale up production, the company said in a statement.

Smart Photonics had been looking for investment since last year and that there was interest from Asia, the Financieele Dagblad reported earlier. Keijzer told MPs she had been made aware of the foreign interest at the end of last year and decided to invest directly in the company to make sure it, and its suppliers, remain in the Netherlands.

The action also fits in with European Commission call on member states to act against ‘undesirable developments’ in certain markets. Phototonic chips are considered a strategic key industry by Brussels.

In total, Smart Photonic has raised €35m to €40m, some of which has also come from KPN. ‘There is a need for a new generation of photonic integrated circuits that can transport data faster, be cost-effective and more sustainable, in order to keep up with the immense amount of data generated at a very high speed by advancing technologies like IoT, AI, augmented reality and autonomous driving,’ said Samir Ahmad, head of investment at KPN Ventures.



Workers on flexible contracts often don’t meet income support rules: UWV

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Just half the 11,500 people who have applied for financial help because they have a flexible employment contract and have not been able to work because of coronavirus have been awarded funding, the state jobs agency UWV told broadcaster NOS on Tuesday.

Those rejected for the TOFA funding did not meet the guidelines because they either had not earned enough in February or had earned too much in April, the UWV said. The scheme is only open to people who earned at least €400 in February and two months later were still earning no more than half of their February gross income.

In total, the state jobs agency UWV, which is administering the scheme, will pay people on flexible contracts up to €1,650 for the period March to May. Applications for help opened on June 22 and will close on July 12.

The scheme was developed because some workers, often students and people on staffing agency contracts, are not able to claim financial support via the various other schemes and were not entitled to social security either.

Tens of thousands of people – particularly people on temporary or zero hours contracts – are thought to have been left with no income because they are not covered by the existing rulings.



Drugs by post: ‘Dutch dealers sent thousands of parcels abroad each month’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch dealers are sending thousands of parcels of cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy to customers abroad, the NRC reported on Tuesday.

In particular, police and customs officials in Germany, France, Britain, Australia and various Asian countries have had enough of the Dutch drugs parcels and the issue risks damaging the country’s reputation, the paper said.

According to some estimates, dealers are sending around 9,000 packages abroad and 400 deliveries were intercepted in Australia in one month. Dutch police have received 120 requests for information from abroad since 2019, the NRC said.

The quantities range from a couple of grams of cocaine to sweet jars filled with ecstasy pills. The NRC says police are also concerned about the new breed of dealers – young, well-educated men without a record – who operate behind special browsers to advertise their wares.

They don’t really realise they are international drugs dealers, public prosecutor Neeltje Keeris told the paper. ‘They think they will get away with a warning and community service.’

At the end of last year, a Dutch student was jailed for five years for sending at least 70 packages of drugs, primarily to Australia.



Pigs still boiled alive despite promises to eradicate practice: Varkens in Nood

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Despite pledges from Dutch farm minister Carola Schouten to close abattoirs and increase fines for animal cruelty following revelations about conditions in Dutch slaughterhouses in 2018, the practice of boiling pigs alive still hasn’t been eradicated, Varkens in Nood has said.

The organisation, which has been lobbying for better circumstances for pigs for decades, based its claims on inspection reports dating from the beginning of 2018 to June 2019 and has started legal proceedings against one slaughterhouse.

Daily inspections are carried out in the 21 main slaughterhouses in the Netherlands while smaller ones are randomly checked. Inspectors found that in a number of cases, pigs were being placed in water at 60 degrees Celsius while still conscious, constituting ‘severe suffering’.

Other animals were kicked and beaten or weakened by infection through standing in their own excrement and urine. In one case, a live pig was found on the production line.

‘The only solution is independent camera monitoring of every slaughter line,’ spokesperson Frederiek Schouten of Varkens in Nood told RTL Nieuws. ‘And slaughterhouses which are caught out more than once should be closed immediately,’ she said.

Every year some 15 million pigs, 2 million cows and 500,000 sheep are killed in the Netherlands’ 180 slaughterhouses. Fines for breaking the law range from €500 for a ‘slight infringement’ to €10,000 for a very serious or repeat offences.



‘Non-consensual sex’ is still rape, say 75% of the Dutch in Amnesty survey

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Most Dutch think any sex without mutual consent should be qualified as rape, a survey by I&O Research on behalf of Amnesty International has shown.

In current Dutch law rape is only rape if force or violence can be proven in court. This is not always possible because victims freeze, are too frightened to resist, or are drugged.

Amnesty commissioned the survey because justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus wants to make ‘non-consensual sex’ a separate offence, carrying only half the penalty for rape. Amnesty says that 70% of rape cases are of this type.

Three quarters of the 2,000 respondents said that sex without mutual consent but without the use force of violence should count as rape, with nearly all respondents saying that it makes no difference if the victim froze or was under the influence.

However, some 20% of young men between 16 and 35 said that the absence of a clear ‘no’ would count as a mitigating circumstance. Amnesty wants Grapperhaus to reconsider his proposal.

‘Sex against someone’s will must always be treated as rape,’ Martine Goeman, director of the gender programme at Amnesty, told public broadcaster NOS. ‘Instead of making this a new offence, the current law on rape should be adapted to include it,’ she said.

Goeman also said half of women who had experienced this type of rape had not reported it to the police. ‘They are met with disbelief and questions of why the victim did not put up a fight. That damages them for a second time,’ she said.


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