Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (4310)

The rich, white Dutch live the most segregated lives: CBS

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – People of Dutch origin with high salaries are least likely to have people with foreign roots in their networks of friends, colleagues and neighbours, national statistics agency CBS said on Friday. 

And the higher the income, the more likely they are to live in a segregated bubble, the CBS said in a new report.

The report looked at segregation among the ethnic Dutch and the 10 biggest foreign communities in the Netherlands between 2009 and 2020. 

It found alongside the Dutch, that Turkish, Moroccan and Polish communities – people who were born abroad or who have at least one parent who was – also tend to be fairly segregated. The least segregated communities, however, had German, British and Indonesian roots. 

But while the ethnic Dutch are more likely to live in relative isolation the higher their income, the reverse is true for people with Turkish, Moroccan and Caribbean roots, the CBS found. In these communities high earners are more likely to have a less segregated network than their peers on lower incomes.

One possible explanation is fewer people with different roots live in richer neighbourhoods and work in highly paid jobs, the CBS said.

The research also shows that the native Dutch have become more segregated since 2009, even though the population has become more diverse. “This can be explained by the fact that schools have become increasingly segregated, and that influences your networks,” Radboud University lecturer Jochem Tolsma told the Volkskrant.  

The biggest danger presented by such segregation is increasing polarisation, Tolsma said. “You can’t force people to be friends but you can manage points of contact”, such as by developing mixed ability schools and mixed housing.

“The native Dutch often say that the others don’t integrate,” Tolsma told the paper. “But this research reinforces the point that integration takes two groups.” 

At the end of last year Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema caused a furore in the international community by telling “expats” to get out of their bubble



Police call for information about drugs chemical dumping

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – At least 10 vats containing thousands of litres of chemicals left over from “washing” cocaine or amphetamine and ecstasy production have been found dumped in the Brabant countryside, the Brabants Dagblad said on Thursday.

The find was made near the town of Schijndel and was described as “very strong smelling” by a photographer at the scene. Some of the containers were damaged. Others had tipped over and were leaking into a ditch and specialists are now being brought in to clear up the waste.  

Agony and ecstasy: how drugs waste is destroying Dutch countryside

The police have also made a public appeal for information in connection with three other dumps in Smilde and Beilen in Drenthe and the Frisian village of Jubbega, which involved over 30 jerry cans of chemicals.

According to public health institute RIVM, the police find some 200 dump sites every year.



AI helps doctors spot 40% more polyps, Dutch research show

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Scientists at Radboud teaching hospital in Nijmegen are using AI to detect polyps in the colon, and say the smart camera is leading to 40% more being found than with the naked eye alone. 

Polyps are small growths that can be a precursor of cancer. Up to now they have been identified and removed by colonoscopy and more than 100,000 people undergo such research every year. 

Previous studies have shown that the more polyps a doctor finds and removes, the lower the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer later on.

“A doctor can miss a polyp if, for example, it is only on the screen for a short time or if they are focused on another area,” researcher Michiel Maas said. “But a computer looks at every pixel and is alert every millisecond. And that has tremendous added value.”

The Radboud research, published in The Lancet Digital Health, was carried out across 10 hospitals in different countries and 916 patients took part. They had all either had polyps earlier or had been earmarked for colon cancer screening. 

Some were given regular checks and the rest used the AI method. The computer placed a purple square in the image if an area looked suspicious, drawing the doctor’s attention to it for closer examination.

Although the computer helped detect and remove more polyps, the colonoscopy with digital assistance did not take more time. Nor did the new procedure result in a higher percentage of false positives.

Next the researchers will investigate whether the computer can also determine the danger level of a polyp based on its visual characteristics and size.

“If we can determine that during the examination, we can leave harmless polyps in place,’ said gastroenterologist Peter Siersema. “They won’t need to be analysed by the pathology lab and ultimately, this will reduce the risk of complications and costs.”



Man found with bag of explosives near attacked plumber’s home

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A teenager has been arrested after he was spotted carrying a bag with explosive materials near the home of a plumber who has been the target of 10 bomb attacks in the last three months.

Security guards alerted police after the 19-year-old man was seen acting suspiciously in Gretha Hofstraatlaan in Vlaardingen on Tuesday evening.

The man dropped the bag and fled when police arrived, but was arrested soon afterwards following a helicopter search.

Bomb disposal experts examined the bag and found what police called an “explosive”, which was made safe at the scene.

Police would not say if the man was a suspect in the ongoing investigation into a series of bomb blasts against plumber Ron van Uffel, whose home and business premises have been targeted repeatedly since mid-December.

Van Uffel and his family went into hiding and his home and businesses were shuttered, but the council allowed the plumber to return to the house on January 19 after the explosions appeared to have stopped.

The latest explosion, the first for a month, happened in the early hours of Saturday at the plumber’s home, damaging a ground-floor window, RTV Rijnmond reported. It is not clear if he was in the house at the time.

Police have made five arrests so far in connection with the blasts. Three men from Rotterdam aged 17, 24 and 26 were arrested before Christmas, followed by a 19-year-old man from Delfzijl and a 30-year-old man from Rotterdam in early January.



Judge suspended for signing off appeals with false information

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An appeal court judge in The Hague has been suspended for providing fake information in 43 separate cases, by pretending they had been signed off by three judges rather than him alone. 

The judge made the false declarations over the past two years and the public prosecution department has told the Financieele Dagblad it has started an investigation.

The other two judges, who did not sign the documents, were unaware of what the chief judge was doing. He has declined to say why he acted as if three rather than one judge had dealt with the appeal but there was no personal gain, the court said in a press statement.

However, the move will have generated the court money because a hearing with three judges costs far more than one with one person on the bench. In total, the cases are likely to have generated €110,000 in extra income for the court, the FD calculated.

The cases concerned were appeals against verdicts handed down in The Hague’s magistrate’s court, which deals with minor criminal offences. The appeal court said it is “not likely” that the rights of defendants had been damaged by the judge’s “adapted way of working”. 

The case came to light at the end of last year after a tip was passed on to the court management. 

The court is now “reflecting” on what is taking place within the appeal court, how things could have happened, and what measures, if any, should be taken to prevent future re-occurrences.”



EU court asked if fining those who fail to “inburger” is illegal

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The case of an asylum seeker who ran up a debt of €10,000 and was fined €500 for failing to complete an integration course within three years was heard at the European Court of Justice on Tuesday. 

The court has been asked to decide if the Netherlands is acting within the law in requiring new arrivals to go through a formal integration course and then fining them if they failed to complete it within the deadline. 

The case revolves around a man from Eritrea who arrived in the Netherlands when he was 17. When he turned 18, he was told by the authorities he had to go through an “inburgering” course. When he failed to finish in time, he was ordered to repay a €10,000 loan he had taken out with the student finance group Duo to pay for the lessons. He was also fined €500. 

His lawyer Eva Bezem argues that her client was unable to complete the process in time partly because he is dealing with serious trauma and partly because he has mental disabilities. 

“Compare him with a Dutch child who has trouble at school,” Bezem told Trouw. “You help such a child to go through primary and secondary school using everything at your disposal. We would never fine them if they failed to pass their exams.” 

At the time, new arrivals were supposed to organise their integration into Dutch society themselves, but were able to borrow money to pay for it. If the course was completed in time, the loan did not have to be repaid.

Over the past few years, the Netherlands has fined over 3,400 new arrivals for not passing their integration exams within three years and can issue penalties of up to €1,250. According to Trouw, refugees currently have combined loans of €27 million and the total amount in outstanding fines is €2.3 million.  

The ruling may also have implications for the new “inburgering” system which came into effect in 2022. Even though personal loans have been abolished, newcomers are still required by law to complete the process in three years and the government plans to make the language test more difficult, although this has not yet happened.

The European court will take several months to publish its findings and Duo has stopped issuing fines in the meantime, Trouw said. 

The case was referred to Europe by the Council of State, the highest Dutch legal body. 



AI camera software alerts shop staff to possible shoplifters

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Jumbo supermarket group is testing out smart surveillance cameras in some stores in the Netherlands as part of a package of measures to cut back on shoplifting.

The number 2 Dutch food retailer said last month that shoplifting cost it €100 million last year and that it planned to take action. Shoplifting is a major problem in the retail sector and Jumbo estimates that €1 in goods is taken for every €100 spent.

The AI software, which plugs into existing security cameras, comes from French firm Veesion and works by alerting supermarket to staff instantly to shoppers who make “suspicious movements”.

The cameras are being tested in a number of Jumbo-owned supermarkets in the Netherlands and if they work, their use will be expanded to Belgium. The company claims 110 supermarkets in the Netherlands are already using its technology, RTL Nieuws reported.

“We used to have to look at surveillance camera footage if we suspected someone had stolen something and that took a lot of time,” one Jumbo franchise owner said. “With this system, you know what is happening now, not 30 minutes ago.”

Veesion claims that thousands of retailers around the world are reducing shoplifting by up to 60% by using the cameras.

Jumbo said earlier this month the trial with AI will last for three months. Plus and Albert Heijn declined to answer questions from RTL Nieuws about their use of the technology. Aldi said it did not use it and Spar said it was looking into the option.



All 13 suspects arrested at Eritrean riots held in custody

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – All 13 people arrested during the riots that broke out at an Eritrean festival at the weekend have been detained in custody, police said on Monday.

The suspects are all men, aged between 19 and 36. They are suspected of violent disorder and possessing weapons during the violence outside the Opera venue in The Hague on Saturday.

Eight officers were injured during the violence as police used tear gas to break up confrontations between supporters and opponents of the Eritrean government, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world.

Police and firefighters were pelted with stones, fireworks and bicycles, while several police vehicles and a bus were torched as the rioting spread along Fruitweg. Mayor Jan van Zanen ordered police to use tear gas to drive the rival groups apart.

MPs have called for a full investigation by the justice ministry into the weekend violence, including the question of whether the event should have gone ahead, following previous clashes at Eritrean festivals in Rijswijk, Amstelveen and Zaanstad.

‘Appalling’ violence

Van Zanen said the violence was “appalling and unacceptable”, adding it appeared to have been instigated by an anti-government youth organisation known as Brigade Nhamedu.

“The police and the council were aware of the gathering and took the necessary measures in consultation with the venue and the organiser of the gathering,” the mayor said.

“Based on this security was stepped up and police placed extra units on standby. After we received various reports in the early evening that youths from the Eritrean organisation Brigade Nhamedu were seeking a confrontation, an emergency order was issued.”

Kebrom Girmayy, of Eritrean Human Rights Defenders in the Netherlands, told Nieuwsuur he was “shocked” by the events, but called on the Dutch authorities to investigate the reasons behind the tension in the community.

“We shouldn’t be bringing what is happening in Eritrea over here. It’s a different society and we should respect it,” he said.

“I apologise to the Dutch people. They are kind people. But they need to do more investigating into what the problem is with these young people. This didn’t start yesterday.”

Mirjam van Reisen, professor of international relations at Tilburg University, said the violence could have been stoked by the Eritrean regime and a broader investigation was needed.

“We have seen in previous incidents that the regime trained and deployed paramilitary groups to start the riots,” she said.



Ombudsman launches probe into secret terror suspect list

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The national ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen says he is concerned at the way people are being officially registered as having “extremist views” or “terrorist sympathies” even though this can have major consequences for the way they live their lives. 

People are often not aware that they have been labeled a risk under the CTER scheme, why they are listed and how they can be removed, the ombudsman said on Monday.  They may, for example, find they are unable to travel or get stuck abroad, as happened to one man in Spain last year. 

It took Spanish police two months to release the man from Tilburg Spain after he was taken from his hotel in Spain at the end of July while on his way to Morocco with his wife for a holiday. Spain said he was a risk to national security and was on a list banning him from entering the country. 

The ombudsman said he had had dozens of complaints from people who suspect they are on the register but who are given the run-around when they try to find out more. “This is unacceptable,” he said, adding that he has started an investigation.

The police can spread information about people on the CTER register with the security services, investigators and foreign countries and once in the system, it is very hard to get out. 

“As a citizen you must be able to count on the government treating information about you carefully,” he said. “Even if you are not aware of the information and who it is being shared with.” 

People included on the list should also be able to find out about their registration and to set right what is wrong, he said. “But that starts with knowing where you can go for help.” 

Investigative website Follow the Money reported on the problem last year, saying the register dates back to 2012 when thousands of radical youngsters left Europe for Syria to join jihadist movements such as IS.

Since then the police and security services have kept a register naming those who have left plus their family members and friends. The list also includes youngsters who were not radical but whom the police feared could get caught up in jihadist groups.

Justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz has admitted the list exists but said earlier it is up to the victims themselves to have their names removed.



Gasoline and Diesel prices to be adjusted on Saturday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – On Saturday, February 17, fuel pump prices will be adjusted for gasoline while diesel will remain unchanged. 

The current price of unleaded gasoline is Naf.2.389 per liter, will be adjusted to the new price of Naf.2.410 per liter.

The current price of diesel is Naf.2.086 per liter, will remain unchanged.

The Government of Sint Maarten regulates the prices of petroleum products by imposing a maximum price at which wholesalers and retailers can sell these products in the country to motorists.

At the international level, the prices of crude oil have experienced adjustments and local prices follow the international trend, and therefore prices are adjusted to reflect this. 

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