Society Migration and populations

Netherlands: Pro-immigration vs Fortress Europe

3 November 2009
Trouw Amsterdam

The immigration debate heats up. Fire at detention centre at Rotterdam airport (Netherlands), 23 August 2009. Image : vgnoord.nl
The immigration debate heats up. Fire at detention centre at Rotterdam airport (Netherlands), 23 August 2009. Image : vgnoord.nl

Arson, hate mail, paint bombs…: opponents of Dutch immigration policy are stepping up their crusade in The Netherlands. According to Dutch intelligence, two “extremist” organisations spearhead the movement, but the most violent acts are generally the work of splinter groups.

August 2009: After a warning was issued on the Web, a building next to Zestienhoven Airport was set ablaze. It was a construction site shed used by companies that are building a large detention centre (320 cells to hold 576 people) for illegal aliens. A little later that day, Anarchist Fire, a small group of anonymous activists, claimed responsibility. Arson, hate mail, threats… Recent years have seen stiffening resistance to Dutch asylum and immigration policies, reports the AIVD, The Netherlands’ General Intelligence and Security Service.

David van Ballegooijen experienced that first hand. On 20 February 2007 he got quite a shock upon leaving his house in Zeist: the façade was splattered with red paint. At first he put it down to vandalism…until he received an anonymous e-mail: “Blood on your hands, bloodstains on the wall (...). This is a warning (...). No-one collaborating with the inhuman refugee policy will remain anonymous any more.” Van Ballegooijen immediately got the picture: in his capacity as local leader of his Christian party, he had voted in favour of plans to expand the Kamp Zeist detention centre for illegal aliens. “If people disagree with political decisions, I’d ask them to ring at my door during the day,” he says. “Throwing a paint bomb in the middle of the night is cowardly.” That same night, the activists paid visits to five leaders of other parliamentary groups. Karst Schuring, of the Labour party, received hardest blow: the bag full of paint landed in his daughter’s bedroom.

Dozens of companies targeted

Last 9 February, the architect of the Zestienhoven detention centre found his house and car stained with red paint, followed by an e-mail from a group called Betonrot (literally “Concrete Rot”): “By way of thanks for your new plans for the Zestienhoven detention centre and your previous contributions to the industrial penitentiary complex. This is a warning (...). Quit cashing in on Fortress Europe’s barbarous immigration policy!”

The Dutch intelligence service foresees a growing number of threats and illegal activities, especially in light of The Netherlands’ plans to build more and more detention centres. A 27-page blacklist entitled “Put ’em in the stocks!” is now circulating on the Web. The targets include the offices of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), the contractor hired to retrofit the Dordrecht floating prison, and the supplier of lifts for the new Zestienhoven complex – but even the company that collects refuse from the Zaandam detention ships has been blacklisted, along with temp agencies that recruit personnel for detention centres and suppliers of Christmas parcels for the IND. A site called “Down with the Deportation Machine”, which was on line last year, furnished all manner of private information as well, such as the name of the judo club frequented by the young son of one detention centre director.

Legal and illegal activism

In their report, the General Intelligence Service (AIVD) write that “two organisations are spearheading the illegal resistance: Stop the Deportations (WSD) and the Utrecht Anti-deportation Anarchist Group (AAGU). Based in Utrecht, both conduct legal and illegal activities, some of which have been requited with fines, alternative punishments, even prison sentences. But their actions do not involve threats or intimidation, which are carried out by splinter groups like Grenzen Weg (Get Rid of Borders), Geen Bloed Aan Mijn Handen (No Blood on My Hands), Gebroken Gla(n)s (Broken Glass/Splinters) and the aforementioned Anarchist Fire.

“We believe there’s a reason for immigration. We’re very rich, so it’s only natural for the poor to come here,” explains Mikkie Venema (47), an AAGU militant. “We oppose the current immigration policy. We do so by taking open and direct action, but without any violence towards people.”

“Sometimes we do have to do things that disturb people. We’ve occupied an IND office twice and we’ve climbed onto the roof of Kamp Zeist. The AIVD confuses us with the people who throw paint bombs. That’s absurd. We don’t scare people. But I can understand why they’d burn down a building site shed near the detention centre at Zestienhoven Airport. People who’ve been living and working in The Netherlands for 21 years are being thrown out. Men who’ve been locked up as many as eight times and who’ve been on a hunger strike for months. When you hear that, you feel powerless....”

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