Monday, October 31, 2005

11 killed in detention centre blaze

Wednesday night 11 people were killed in a fire in a detention centre in Schiphol, the biggest Dutch international airport. Most of the people killed were drugs smugglers or illegal immigrants, held for deportation.

It appears that the high death toll was caused by the absence of a automated door opening system. The reason that such a system had not been installed is the fear that the inmates would escape every time there would be a malfunction or false alarm.

The images and stories of the fire and of the bereaved families of those killed and injured upset the Dutch public. The Minister of the Interior, Mr. Donner, came under attack for the failure of the detention centre to safeguard and protect the lives of the detainees.

Klaas de Vries, the former Interior Minister under the Leftist - Liberal government prior to the 2002 elections was quick to demand permits for the 270 survivors of the fire, in a move remniscent of the legalisation of 67 illegal immigrants after the crash of an Israeli EL Al 747 on an area almost exclusively populated by black illegal immigrants in 1992. This was done by the mayor of Amsterdam at the time, Ed van Thijn. The news drew thousands of illegal immigrants from all over Europe to the town hall.

Obviously the fire last week undermines the efforts of right wing forces in the Netherlands to reduce the number of illegal immigrants as well of the efforts to reduce legal immigration from Third World countries.

The upsurge of nativist sentiment in the 2002 election and the further strengthening of these forces due to Theo van Gogh almost exactly a year ago is clearly diminishing.

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