Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hui free!!!

After three weeks of detention, 8 year old Hui and his mother were suddenly released last week. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service will not give comment as to why, just vaguely said that “new information” has come up in the case. The lawyer of mother and child said:

,,We have not heard of anything like this yet. Strange, but we are happy that Hui and his mother are out of prison. It is going well with Hui, but the detention has made a deep impression on him.’’

Here you can see Hui's festive return to school.

They’ve been in detention for three weeks, and before that put in ‘deportation camps’ for many, many months because, the government says, that Hui’s mother wouldn’t cooperate with the deportation procedures. Locking people who do not have a right to stay in the country is a way to ‘persuade’ them to cooperate. And now suddenly new information is available about their status. Does this not have something to do with the strong consternation in Parliament? Or the fact that thousands of people, including Hui's classmates and their parents, demonstrated on the streets of Amsterdam and outside the high security prison Camp Zeist?

Hui’s case is not isolated, and by no means an exception. Just how serious the effect of imprisonment can have on a child, Inge Bulters, director of a school for children of refugees elaborates

“[…] 6 year old A. from Iran […] was first locked up with his parents in Rotterdam, after that eight months behind lock and latch in Zeist [high security prison]. […] It was a drama for that child, that lock up. Every time the door closed. For him, the worst fear is that he is taken away from his parents. That [became clear] when he saw something on television about Hui. I hoped that he would let that go. [But he did not]. Immediately he got nightmares. He dreamt that the police at the [asylum seeker centre] drove up and came to pick up him and all the other children. Even his parents cannot take away that fear from him.

[…] The asylum law is simply not right. People are locked up due to a sort of desperation. As if people will go if you lock them up. But people don’t do that […] You don’t want to know how many of our pupils get sleeping tablets to get through the night. This child came here after the vacation and does nothing but study, study, and study. She loves to get homework. We give her that too. It is her strategy of survival.

[…] I believe the worst of our asylum policy in the Netherlands is the fact that children are send through the Netherlands like post packages. On average a child of a refugee sees in a short time five schools. The newest record is a child who [went to] nine school in the Netherlands in ten months. That is so bad. Such a child wouldn’t be able to adapt any more, because [it] knows that [it] can be dragged away at any moment. They do not adapt any more as a sort of self protection, but the result is terrible. Children withdraw completely, or [become aggressive], learning achievement declines, they get social emotional problems. Then you haven’t even thought about what happen to these children once they become older. You see these children are becoming mature far too young. Many pupils must, for [the sake of] their parents. They protect the parents. Recently a child here broke a finger from a fall. The first that it said was: ‘Don’t call my mother.’ While such a child must of course be comforted by its mother. But in this case the child knew that the mother wouldn’t be able to completely handle [the situation].”

An extremely moving account, and at the same time underlines the consequences of an immigration/asylum policy that applies rules and regulations without regard to the human factor…

Well, in the media frenzy and attention that Hui and his mum have attracted, the Minister for Immigration and Integration gave a reaction, Verdonk. She said there will “soon [be] no child in prison any more”…and puts the blame on the parent for allowing the child to end up in prison.

“It is about illegal [immigrants] or people who, after a careful procedure the independent judge has determined that they have no future here. It is about people who we help to make that return a successful beginning in their country of origin.”

The problem with many of these immigrants with no right to stay is that they have no where to return to. Often, as in the case of Hui and his mother, the country of origin (China) does not want these people back, and does not even recognise that these people are in fact nationals of the country. Which effectively means that they are stateless, and have no country that will accept them. And circumstances in their home countries may be so chaotic and dangerous that it is almost like a death warrant for the parent and child to be sent back where they came from. For the Netherlands to deport them, regardless of their circumstance and status, is tantamount to saying we don’t care where wander off to or where they try to build up a life. The minister goes on to explain, and put the blame on the parents for the fact that children end up behind bars:

“But if the parents do not want to take their responsibility, then it becomes difficult. […] It is more difficult if single parents do not want to cooperate with the return [procedure] and per se want to keep their children with them. For them, there is nothing else than “foreigner confinement” [vreemdelingenbewaring ]. Because that is the alternative to an illegal existence. That is no life for parents with children and we do not tolerate that in the Netherlands.”

Funny…illegal existence, which may mean that the parent and child is at least free, is not tolerated but imprisonment is? The very point of departure dealing with single parents with children should be that detention is NOT an option of policy. There are still currently 12 other children in prison…an improvement perhaps from last year, when a staggering 235 children ended up behind bars, some for as long as six months!

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and fellow Dutchman, Jan Pronk has severely criticised Dutch policies with regard to (illegal) immigrants and asylum seekers in recent years. Earlier this week an MP, at a meeting discussing the fate of 26,000 immigrants who have been refused a right to stay in the Netherlands, bluntly said of the deportations:

“You’re awakened in the morning and the house is empty. That shock that you then get: people have been taken away. That shock, people have felt this earlier in situations in the Second World War […] I know in history of no other point with which I could compare that.

[…] Often between three and four am. Even if this is a very different situation, it sometimes reminds [one to think of] how the Germans came to arrest Jews before.”

Minister Verdonk said she was very hurt by the statement.

UPDATE 23 Oct 2006

A resolution adopted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly chastised the Netherlands for its plicy of returning some 26,000 asylum seekers deemed unable to stay in the country. Namely, in the application of rules and procedures, the human factor must be considered [emphasis below mine]:
  • "[...] that special consideration, through a procedure laid down by law, should be given to those failed asylum seekers who have established strong family, community or other links with the Netherlands, such as children who were born or brought up there, or failed asylum seekers who have lived in the country for a long time and have integrated there."

  • [...] the Netherlands [risks returning] certain people to a situation where they might be at risk of serious human rights violations or where their safety would be in danger because of the circumstances prevailing in the country or region of origin.

  • [...] under the revised policy of the Netherlands, detention, of potentially unlimited duration, could be resorted to as a punitive measure to sanction those who do not co-operate, or who cannot prove that they are co-operating, towards facilitating their own return. It regrets that this policy does not foresee any clear exemptions from detention for specific categories of failed asylum seekers such as children, the elderly, people suffering from trauma or mental illness and people with disabilities.

  • [...] policy of the Netherlands should be modified in so far as it allows, in some cases, for certain persons to be protected from expulsion where it is impossible to return them, whilst simultaneously depriving them of all access to housing, social benefits and health care. This is a particularly worrying development, especially regarding children in the light of the rights laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It represents one of a series of measures increasingly used in a number of Council of Europe member states as a means of exerting pressure on failed asylum seekers to return to their countries of origin.

Netherlands safe for Iranian homosexuals

After wrangling on for months on whether it is safe to deport two Iranian homosexuals back to Iran, the minister for Immigration and Integration FINALLY decided that it is not. She did this on the basis of a letter from Human Rights Watch, which stated that the Netherlands would be in breach of its international obligations should the Iranians be sent back. Back in February, Minister Verdonk ridiculously suggested that “simply keeping one’s sexuality covert and one’s selfhood hidden is a safe and acceptable response to the likelihood of persecution.”

What kind of persecution do homosexuals face in Iran?

Iran is distinguished by the overt severity of the penalties it imposes on consensual, adult homosexual conduct. “Sodomy” or lavat—consummated sexual activity between males, whether penetrative or not—is punishable by execution. (Article 111 of the Islamic Penal

Code states that “Lavat is punishable by death so long as both the active and passive partners are mature, of sound mind, and have acted of free will.”) Tafkhiz (the rubbing together of thighs or buttocks or other forms of non-penetrative “foreplay” between men) is punishable by one hundred lashes for each partner, according to Articles 121 and122 of the Penal Code. Recidivism is punishable by death on the fourth conviction. In addition, Article 123 of the Penal Code further provides that “If two men who are not related by blood lie naked under the same cover without any necessity,” each one will receive ninety-nine lashes. Articles 127 to 134 stipulate that the punishment for sexual intercourse between women is one hundred lashes and if the offense is repeated three times, the punishment is execution.”

I don’t think anyone with a vague understanding of the Iranian regime and its stringent application of Sharia would doubt that sending back Iranian homosexuals is the same as a death sentence.

“As is well known, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 called for homosexuals to be extirpated as “parasites and corruptors of the nation” who “spread the stain of wickedness.” In a further sign of the general judicial attitude to homosexual conduct, Ayatollah Musavi-Ardebili, at the time the head of the Supreme Council of Judiciary, said in a sermon delivered in 1990 at Teheran University: “For homosexuals, men or women, Islam has prescribed the most severe punishments… Do you know how homosexuals are treated in Islam? After it has been prov[en] on the basis of Shari’ah, they should seize him [or her]…they should keep him standing, they should split him in two with a sword, they should either cut off his neck or they should split him from the head. He will fall down. They get what they deserve” (BBC Monitoring, May 21, 1990).”

A year ago two Iranian teens were hanged for being homosexual. Despite this, the minister earlier this year said there was no threat posed to people to be sent back to Iran. Because of this, the minister won herself a place in HRW's Hall of Shame. Under pressure from Parliament and the public he had to freeze the deportation order. It was feared that granting asylum on the grounds of homosexuality would flood the country with those who declare themselves to be gay overnight. COC, the largest holebi interest group in the Netherlands, says this is ridiculous:

“With this decision it is ridiculous to think that tomorrow dozens of Iranians [will stand] at the border with the claim of being gay. Many Dutch gays find it difficult enough to tell them surroundings that they are gay or lesbian. Let alone if you as a straight man come from a completely homophobic country like Iran and have to, through an interpreter from your own country, tell to a government official in the Netherlands with a straight face that you have feelings for people of the same sex.”

The minister decided that “homosexual asylum seekers who have to fear persecution or risk inhuman treatment at return, are eligible for a residence permit”.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali case continues

Well, even though Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now in the US, she continues to make news across the Atlantic.

In line with her (personal) crusade against Islamic fundamentalism, she warned in an editorial piece in Die Welt (in German) about the dangers of “Prada-Islam”, arguing that even moderate Muslims still pose a danger for modern societies of Europe. The original English version of the article can be found here.

According to the ostrich, very soon there shall be a European Islam, signs of which are already visible in the young women in tight jeans, high heels, black sleeveless tight tops and matching head scarves, all designed by Prada. This Prada Islam will replace the old rural one and function as a vaccine against the Wahhabi Islam of the Saudis.

Using the analogy of a (delusional) ostrich and (wise) owl, Hirsi Ali argues that to think that Muslims will adopt themselves to European values and culture is a case of “ostrich vision”.

“The ostrich sees only one thing as a setback: the xenophobia of native Europeans. If only the inherently racist white society was to overcome its fear of what is alien, it would notice how migrants have improved the cuisine, the music, the arts and the economy of Europe. The mantra of the ostrich is borrowed from Monty Python: "Always look on the bright side of life."

It is an illusion to believe that the current problems with Muslims are only temporary, and that one day we will have to reckon with radical Islam. More specifically she refers to the treatment of Muslim women, and the fact that many Muslim simply don’t want to be integrated into European societies and accept European values.

She warns of a hardening conflict between the extreme right and “Islam-fascism”, which will worsen with an quota-less immigration policy. The lack of progress in providing development aid to those very countries from which many immigrants tend to flee from to come to Europe will increase the number of illegal immigrants who are being exploited and marginalised.

In contrast, the owl doesn’t put its head in the sand and sees the dangers and injustices coming.

The owl sees that Islam is not Christianity and that not all Muslims understand or want to share in any European future based on European values of freedom, tolerance and an attitude of live and let live.

A bleak picture is painted if nothing is done:

“In a worse-case scenario, the warnings of the owl will not be heeded. The optimism of the ostrich will be abandoned. The monopoly of force that is now exclusive to states will be challenged by armed subgroups. European societies will be divided along ethnic and religious lines that are hostile to each other. An already deteriorating education system will not succeed in grooming the youth to believe in a shared past, let alone a shared future. The educating of kids will be left in the hands of their particular ethnic or religious community.

The European states will find themselves limiting civil liberties. Europeans will come to accept the de facto implementation of Sharia law in certain neighbourhoods and even cities. The exploitation of the weak, women and children will be commonplace. Those who can afford to emigrate will do so. This emigration will compound an ongoing brain drain but also an outflow of money and expertise”

The time is nigh, she says, for political leadership and will to do something about the situation. There is hope yet.

“A misguided vision brought Europe to its current predicament; an idealistic vision, convinced of the inherent superiority of enlightened values over the values of oppressive cultures, a vision steeped in individual rights, the rule of law and the equality of men and women, can help guide Europe out of it. It is possible. Europe is not yet lost and members of its immigrant communities can indeed integrate into a European society.”

And Hirsi Ali pronounces some ideas how the problematic causes, reasons and tensions between Islamic and European values can be solved.

“First, controlled or planned immigration. Second, an intervention, sometimes proactive, in countries that generate large-scale exoduses. And third, an active assimilation policy. Member nations that do not meet this or frustrate this policy will be penalized legally and financially.”

Europe must become proactive, she argues, and people should be ‘forced’ to integrate, oddly familiar to the Rousseau-sque idea of human beings having to be coerced to be free.

“EU will implement an assimilation program guided by the lessons learned from the failed policies of member states that attempted to integrate non-Western migrants based on a theory of multiculturalism. It will acknowledge that the basic tenets of Islam are a major obstacle to integration. In practice, Muslims will continue to enjoy religious freedom within the EU, as long as exercising that precious right does not infringe upon the freedoms of others, including daughters and wives.

The argument of the French is that the freedom of conscience and thus, faith, is best guaranteed by a neutral state. Much as I admire the American way of doing things, the French model seems to me to be the best in dealing with the problem of assimilation. It's geared best towards the folly of all religions that indoctrinate helpless children with the superstitions their parents subscribe to.

In a best-case scenario, there will be no schools indoctrinating poor kids with a hostile view of life. Outside school, parents may favour their religion. When a child is old enough to make one's own decisions, he or she will choose whatever faith or secular mind he or she wants to adhere to. Most important of all, he or she will have learned in school not to impose but to respect the freedoms of the other.”

In another article, Hirsi Ali writes about the plight of women worldwide, especially those living under" brutal and retrograde body of laws" in Islamic societies.

"Wherever the Islamists implement Shariah, or Islamic law, women are hounded from the public arena, denied education and forced into a life of domestic slavery.

Cultural and moral relativists sap our sense of moral outrage by claiming that human rights are a Western invention. Men who abuse women rarely fail to use the vocabulary the relativists have provided them. They claim the right to adhere to an alternative set of values - an "Asian," "African" or "Islamic" approach to human rights.

This mind-set needs to be broken. A culture that carves the genitals of young girls, hobbles their minds and justifies their physical oppression is not equal to a culture that believes women have the same rights as men"

She sketches in this article the attrocious things that happen to Muslim women, many within the European Union.

  • Four-year-old girls have their genitals mutilated: some of them so badly that they die of infections; others are traumatised for life from the experience and will later suffer recurrent infections of their reproductive and urinary systems.
  • Teenage girls are removed from school by force and kept inside the house to stop their schooling, stifle their thinking and suffocate their will.
  • Victims of incest and sexual abuse are beaten, deported or killed to prevent them from filing complaints.
  • Some pregnant victims of incest or abuse are forced by their fathers, older brothers, or uncles to have abortions in order to keep the family honour from being stained. In this era of DNA testing, the girls could demonstrate that they have been abused. Yet instead of punishing the abusers, the family treats the daughter as if she had dishonoured the family.
  • Girls and women who protest their maltreatment are beaten by their parents in order to kill their spirits and reduce them to a lifelong servitude that amounts to slavery.
  • Many girls and women who can't bear to suffer any more take their own lives or develop numerous kinds of psychological ailments, including nervous breakdown and psychosis. They are literally driven mad.
  • A Muslim girl in Europe runs more risk than girls of other faiths of being forced into marriage by her parents with a stranger. In such a marriage -- which, since it is forced, by definition starts with rape -- she conceives child after child. She is an enslaved womb. Many of her children will grow up in a household with parents who are neither bound by love nor interested in the wellbeing of their children. The daughters will go through life as subjugated as their mothers and the sons become -- in Europe -- dropouts from school, attracted to pastimes that can vary from loitering in the streets to drug abuse to radical Islamic fundamentalism.

Another way the former parliamentarian made the headlines this week: Remember last year she was ‘kicked out’ of her apartment in The Hague by her neighbours? They took the state to court, saying that because of Hirsi Ali’s profile and the death threats against her, the neighbours would be victims in the event of an attempted attack. The local court in December 2005 judged in favour of the neighbours, and said the state had acted “illegitimately” by placing Hirsi Ali in the apartment without asking the neighbours for permission. The case basically decided that there was nowhere Hirsi Ali could live, because nobody in the country would want to have her as a neighbour. The minister of Justice challenged the decision, and the Supreme Court yesterday quashed the lower court decision, and wants a further investigation into the matter.

The Supreme Court held that the interest of the state should be considered when housing certain (threatened) citizens. It was no enough that Hirsi Ali may have posed a threat to the neighbours. Stringent measures taken by the state to guarantee security and safety in the neighbourhood may have the potential to balance out the risks that the neighbours may or may not encounter. The case needs to be reevaluated, especially in future reference to other politicians or persons who face disproportionate levels of threat against their person and life.

23 Oct 2006

In contrast to Hirsi Ali's views of Islam posing a counter force in European societies, Professor of Islamic Law and the Middle East Ruud Peters at the University of Amsterdam argues the contrary:

“Listen to the migration historians, look to the long term […] Politicians can often be short-term thinkers, therefore they often do not see much. But look to the Italian immigrants in the US. They had virtue- and value patterns that strongly resemble those of our Muslim immigrants now. Those problems were also solved. It would be just like before with the Jews. In three generations the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims will exist predominantly in different names and surnames.”