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MPs told off for using mobile phone during debates

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – MPs looking at their mobile phones during debates is the number one complaint received by the chairwoman of the Dutch lower chamber Khadija Arib, public broadcaster NOS reports.

An average of 38% of MPs are looking at their phones during a debate, with occasional peaks of 90%, Fractie van Aandacht found.

The collective of students and a commercial company monitored MPs’ phone use during 21 meetings and said stricter rules are necessary to limit use in parliament.

Arib said that although mobile phones are here to stay, she also wants MPs to be conscious of the impression they make. ‘It’s not so much a question of how often they look at their phones but of whether or not they are following the debate, listen to each other and look into each other’s eyes.

We as MPs should be setting an example,’ she told NOS. The chairman said she did not want to ban the use of mobile phones. ‘Documents, motions, news are all coming in via the phone.

This makes it an important tool for MPs to know what is going on outside the meeting, especially during long debates.’ Last year PvdD MP Esther Ouwehand reprimanded prime minister Mark Rutte for being busy with his mobile for much of the debate on nitrogen emissions.

The prime minister admitted it had not been ‘a clever move’. Public disapproval about MPs mobile phone use is not limited to Dutch MPs. In Britain an (unsuccessful) petition to ban phones in parliament was launched last year.

(DutchNews)

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Cold case calendar goes to psychiatric prisons this year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A new Dutch police calendar listing 52 unsolved crimes will now be distributed in psychiatric prison institutes, according to the NOS broadcaster.

The calendar of ‘cold cases’ – created for the fourth year – is being sent to the tbs clinics for the first time in an attempt to solve cases from a dead baby found in the rubbish in Utrecht in 2006 to the death of HIV-positive sex worker Judit Nyari, whose body was found in woods in Dronten in 1993.

Police told the NOS that it was important to relatives that these cases were remembered, and that the investigations continued even if the mysteries were decades old.

‘Of course, they hope that we can solve the cases but the most important thing to them is that we don’t forget,’ said Aart Garssen, leader of the cold case team, to NOS Radio1.

‘Some 800 people are walking around the Netherlands knowing more about these cases, and we appeal to them to come forward with information so that these people’s relatives no longer have to live in doubt.’

Last year there were 202 tips on the basis of cases in the calendar and two were reopened. One of the most striking this year is the dead baby girl named ‘Renée’ van Utrecht by Utrecht council.

Her body was discovered in a rubbish sorting factory by a worker on 30th October 2006, in waste that came from a wide area of the Netherlands. DNA and isotope testing led nowhere, and the calendar is the last hope, according to Rob Boon, of the local cold case team.

‘Somewhere a mother is crying about the fate of this child, and we are very concerned about it,’ he said to RTV Utrecht.

(DutchNews)

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Process in the run-up to phased-in Statia Island Council elections starts February

SINT EUSTATIUS - Effective February 20th the Executive Council of the Public Entity of St. Eustatius in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations will launch an awareness and education campaign in the run-up to the Island Council elections.

This pre- election process will comprise a series of information sessions and walk in sessions for existing and prospective politicians as well as a public awareness campaign. The main objective is to motivate existing and prospective politicians to participate in the intended Island Council elections as announced in the letter of September 2019.

The first event is an information evening scheduled for February 20th at the Mike van Putten Youth Centre, where information will be given about the upcoming elections, being a politician and the follow-up actions.

Following the information session, a walk-in day on February 21st is organized, where individuals who are (re)considering a career in politics, have the opportunity to ask questions about postulating themselves and the follow-up actions.

Featured speakers for the information session will comprise the Government Commissioner and a representative from the Electoral Council supported by experts. The second information session is scheduled in March, followed by a walk-in session the following day as well.

The objective of this information session is to provide basic information about constitutional relations, the role and responsibilities of the Island Council, the Executive Council and the Island Governor/Government Commissioner and how these relate to the civil service.

During this same period a public awareness campaign on radio, television and social media will address the same topics. In April former and current politicians, functionaries and constitutional experts will share best practices (stories) and their personal experiences.

“It is important to have experts familiar with St. Eustatius, who are well-known to the island, form part of this process to get politicians, as well as the electorate, ready for the phased-in elections of the Island Council”, says Government Commissioner, Mr. Marcolino Franco. (GIS Statia)

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Jewish restaurant in Amsterdam targeted with fake bomb

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The suspicious package left outside a Jewish restaurant in Amsterdam, sparking a major security scare, did not contain explosives, police confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.

The Amstelveenseweg was sealed off and locals urged to leave the area while explosives experts checked out the box, which was lightly sealed with tape and had a wire sticking out.

It had been placed by the main door of the kosher eatery, which was not open at the time. The HaCarmel first hit the headlines at the end of 2017 when a Palestinian man smashed its main window.

According to a spokesman for the family who own the restaurant, this is the fourth incident in two years.

(DutchNews)

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Police record more crime, due to rise in fraud and internet-related incidents

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of crimes reported to the police rose 4% last year, the first recorded rise in nine years, but ‘traditional’ crimes are still going down, according to new figures.

There were fewer reports of burglary and pickpocketing, but there was a sharp rise in the number of reports of fraud – particularly internet and bank related fraud, the new police figures show.

The reason for the overall rise, police say, could either be ‘an increase in the crime rate, changes in the way crimes are recorded, an rise in the number of internet-based reports and the increase in fraud-related crime.’

In addition, the suspects are getting younger, police say. ‘They see websites where you can buy and sell items as an easy way to score money,’ police chief Erik Akkerboom said.

‘This can be the first step into a life of crime. ‘Or take the children involved in the riots in Duindorp in the run-up to New Year. The youngest was nine,’ he said. ‘We have to tackle this together and that requires input from parents, schools, local authorities and the police.’

More police capacity is also being taken up dealing with problems caused by drunks and people with psychiatric problems, Akkerboom said.

(DutchNews)

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ABN Amro scraps interest on savings, big savers will have to pay

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – ABN Amro bank has become the first of the big three Dutch banks to scrap interest on savings accounts.

The bank had maintained a token interest rate of 0.01% since November, in line with the other banks, but will drop it altogether from April 1. At the same time, savers with more than €2.5m in savings will pay 0.5% to keep all cash above that sum in their accounts.

The bank has some 3,000 private savers and 2,200 companies with reserves of more than €2.5m who are likely to be affected. Clients were informed about the changes on Monday.

‘With no foreseeable change in the current low interest rate environment, ABN Amro has taken the decision to start charging interest on large deposits effective 1 April, and to update its regular product terms to reflect that,’ the bank said in a statement.

ABN Amro became the first of the three big Dutch banks to lower the interest paid on one of its savings accounts to almost zero last autumn. The banks blame European central bank policy for the problem.

They are required by law to keep some of their cash at the ECB and are now being charged to put their money there. Tridos, which focuses on green and sustainable investments, cut its interest rate to zero a while ago.

(DutchNews)

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Farmhouse mystery father is ‘too ill to speak’, won’t appear in court

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The father at the centre of the Ruinerwold farmhouse mystery will not appear in court next week for a preliminary hearing into charges of sexual abuse and holding people against their will, his lawyer has told the Telegraaf.

Gerrit Jan van D, who lived with six of his children in isolation for some nine years, is not well enough to talk and remains in prison hospital in Scheveningen, lawyer Robert Snorn told the paper.

Van D had a stroke several years ago and was not treated at the time. Since then he has apparently been bed-ridden and unable to speak. He responds to questions by nodding or shaking his head, Snorn said.

Josef B, the Austrian man who rented the farmhouse on behalf of the family and is suspected of kidnapping and money laundering will be at the hearing, the paper said.

The family were discovered in early October when one youngster went to the local bar, appealing for help. At the time the family was portrayed as some sort of doomsday cult with no connection to the outside world, but it emerged later that both the father and the eldest son were active on social media.

It also transpired that Van D had three other children who had broken contact with him and never lived in Ruinerwold. He is suspected of sexually abusing two of them.

At the end of last year, the four oldest children put out a joint statement via documentary film maker Jessica Villerius, saying that they support the complaints made against their father, who also faces charges of kidnapping and money laundering.

But the five youngest children say they back their father and describe the division between them and their older siblings, in the statement, as ‘very painful’.

(DutchNews)

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Interpreters down tools in protest at plans to open up courts register

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Hundreds of interpreters are going on strike in protest against government plans to cut costs by opening up the sector to less qualified competitors.

Around 1,500 interpreters are suspending all work for the courts, police and immigration service. The action will affect large numbers of cases because people who appear before the courts or deal with the IND have a legal right to follow proceedings in a language they understand.

The strike is in response to justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus’s proposals to outsource the hiring of interpreters and allow unqualified translators and agencies to bid for work.

Ani Getcheva, spokeswoman for the action group for registered interpreters and translators, told AD the plan would compromise the quality of the service.

‘The fact that you speak a language doesn’t automatically mean you can interpret in it. Opening up the register will bring in [unqualified] people for the same rates. We are worried that highly qualified people will then walk away.’

Getcheva said that around 2,000 people had signed a resolution urging the government to take action, while around 1,500 of the 2,600 registered interpreters were committed to joining the strike, which will last as long as necessary.

‘That number is growing by the hour,’ she said. ‘We work for the courts, the police and the IND. That means that all courts in the Netherlands are going to have trouble finding interpreters.

‘Police interviews with foreign-language suspects won’t be able to take place either, and neither will interviews with the IND. We think the schedule for the entire system will grind to a halt.’

(DutchNews)

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Over 2,500 children have disappeared from Dutch refugee centres in 10 years

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Over 2,500 children have disappeared from refugee centres in the Netherlands over the past 10 years and no-one knows where most of them are, the NRC reported on Monday.

Some of the under-18s will have travelled on to find family in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe but a proportion will have ended up in the hands of human traffickers or in prostitution, refugee agency COA says.

In total, some 11,700 under-18s claimed asylum in the Netherlands without one or both parents in the 10 years to the end of 2019 and at least 2,556 have vanished.

The final total may be higher because Nidos, the agency charged with looking after unaccompanied minors, did not provide the NRC with figures from 2011 to 2014.

COA staff told the paper there is little they can do to stop children disappearing. Sometimes they spot strange people or cars waiting outside refugee centres, in which cases they note the licence plate and report it to the police.

In 2006, after it became clear girls from Nigeria were being trafficked as refugees and forced into prostitution, officials began improving their registration systems, the paper said.

Children considered to be most vulnerable to being trafficked are kept in more secure accommodation and officials say they are doing all they can to try to reduce the risk of the child disappearing.

‘But it is not possible to guarantee that no young, unaccompanied refugees will leave the shelters,’ a spokesman told the paper. Most of the children who disappeared came from Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Albania, Eritrea, Syria and Vietnam.

(DutchNews)

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Politicians should take responsibility for their own laws, says legal chief

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Politicians should take responsibility for their own laws and stop pointing at judges who make rulings they disagree with, the chairman of the Dutch council for the judiciary has said in his traditional New Year’s speech.

‘Stop hiding behind our robes and take responsibility for the law-making and decision-taking which is apparently falling short,’ Henk Naves said in his speech. While there is nothing wrong with politicians criticising judges, Naves said he missed support from others who did not agree.

‘Most [politicians] stay silent and are complicit,’ he said. ‘More than that, the accusations against judges have been embraced by a parliamentary working party which is now looking into ‘the rule of law’.

’Judges, he said, do not simply come up with their rulings. ‘Judges apply the law as it has been established by lawmakers and test compliance with international treaties which have been adopted by parliament,’ he said.

‘These are rules which the government has to adhere to as well.’ Judges at the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, came under fire last May for finding that the government was not doing enough to cut nitrogen compound pollution in line with the law.

At the end of the year, Supreme Court judges were also criticised for ruling that parliament should do more to cut pollution in a ground-breaking case based on international treaties.

Far right politician Thierry Baudet has also attacked judges in several speeches.

(DutchNews)

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