Newcomers must pledge to uphold Dutch values, sign contract

Storm force winds to batter northern Netherlands on Sunday afternoon

All newcomers to the Netherlands who are required to take an integration course will also have to sign a 'participation declaration' pledging to uphold Dutch values, the government agreed on Friday. The decision follows what the government says is 'successful trials' of the concept in 13 councils between March 2014 to March 2015. In total, just over 4,000 people were involved in the trials and 1,500 completed the courses and signed the official declaration, a report for the social affairs ministry shows. Most of the signatories were people from central and Eastern Europe. When the programme is anchored in law next year, it will first focus on refugees, people coming to the Netherlands to be with their families and everyone who has to undergo an integration course. [banner] However, 'at a later moment, people who do not have to take integration courses, such as EU migrants, may also be offered such a programme,' social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher said in a briefing to parliament. The participation declaration programme will form the first part of the main integration course and people who refuse to sign can be fined up to €1,250. 'Our society can only function everyone who settles here participates and respects the basic principles of Dutch society,' Asscher said in his briefing. Text A draft version of the declaration issued by the government in 2013 states that ‘in the Netherlands, all citizens are treated equally’ and that discrimination is not accepted. ‘In the Netherlands, we ask citizens to help each other and to support each other if necessary,’ it states. The document continues: ‘In the Netherlands, we ask all citizens to contribute to a pleasant and safe society, for example, by working, going to school or doing voluntary work. Speaking Dutch is very important in this.’ The declaration ends with the signatory saying they have taken note of these Dutch values and will play an active part in Dutch society.  More >

Storm force winds to hit Sunday afternoon

Storm force winds to batter northern Netherlands on Sunday afternoon The KNMI weather bureau on Sunday issued a code orange weather warning for the north of the country, saying winds of up to 110 kph will batter coastal areas in the late afternoon. In the Wadden Sea area, the winds cold reach up to 120 kph, the organisation said. A code yellow warning has been issued for the south and east. The winds will die down overnight but it will remain blustery and wet on Monday, the KNMI said.  More >

Fake ambulances used to smuggle drugs

Storm force winds to batter northern Netherlands on Sunday afternoon Three Dutchmen face lengthy jail terms in Britain for smuggling up to €2.2bn worth of cocaine and heroin into the country using second-hand ambulances, British media reported on Saturday. During the trial in Birmingham, the court was told how the group were equipped with bogus paramedics' uniforms and even a fake patient on crutches. One man, named as 55-year-old Leonardus Bijlsma, has been convicted of smuggling while a second, Richard Engelsbel, aged 51, had admitted driving an ambulance on 25 trips during the operation. A fourth man, aged 28, was found not guilty. [banner] According to British prosecutors, 38-year-old Olof Schoon was the ‘central player’ who ran the fully taxed and insured ambulances run out of registered company offices in the Netherlands. He is said to have made 39 trips to Britain. The ambulances ran for 14 months, from April last year, until they were caught near a scrapyard in Smethwick in the West Midlands in June. At the same time, Dutch police carried out raids in Hoofddorp and Zwanenburg and found a further 10 ambulances in storage. They have been taken away for forensic investigation. More on this  More >

Biggest home care agency almost bust

Storm force winds to batter northern Netherlands on Sunday afternoon The Netherlands' biggest home care agency, with 12,000 workers and 40,000 clients, is on the verge of bankruptcy. TSN Thuiszorg applied for court protection from creditors on Friday, blaming government spending cuts for its troubles. Earlier this month, the courts ruled that TSN could not cut the wages of its workers by between 20% and 30%, which the company said it needed to do to make ends meet. 'It costs us €27 a hour to employ someone but councils will only pay €21 an hour,' director Zion Jongstra told a news conference. 'We cannot keep this up.' The entire home care sector is in a similar situation, Jongstra said.  Home care agencies provide cleaning, light nursing and other tasks for the frail elderly and housebound. [banner]  More >

Performing rights boss quits over pay cut

Storm force winds to batter northern Netherlands on Sunday afternoon The head of Dutch performing rights society Buma Stemra has stepped down rather than agree to a pay cut under new rules on public sector salaries. Hein van der Ree said he would not accept changes to the terms of his contract despite the government's pledge to limit salaries to that of a minister. In an agreement with the board, he will now leave the organisation in February with a pay-off of €480,000. The pay-off, equivalent to 15 months salary, also breaks new rules on golden handshakes. However, this is in line with Van der Ree's contract, which was agreed before the new rules came into force, Buma Stemra said. Van der Ree has worked for the company, which collects royalties on behalf of Dutch musicians, for almost six years. The organisation's income has risen €14m over that period, hitting €190m last year.  More >