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Dutch News
Amsterdam mayor understands Zwarte Piet sensitivities 10/20/2013


Supporters and opponents of Zwarte Piet - the black servants who accompany St Nicholas as part of the Sinterklaas celebrations - appeared in front of an Amsterdam city council licencing committee on Thursday.
In total, 21 opponents of the character - usually played by white people in black face make-up - are trying to have his presence banned from the traditional arrival of Sinterklaas in the city, three weeks before December 5.
A large number of Surinamese and Antillean protesters were at the town hall for the hearing, the Volkskrant reported. They say the character is discriminatory and the council should not give permission for the event in its current form.
The protest''s initiator, Quinsy Gario, also warned the council of the impact of the procession on the city''s international reputation. ''Such open discrimination raises international hackles,'' he is quoted as saying by the Parool.
Sensitivities
A spokesman for the city''s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, said he understands the sensitivities. The council would like to develop a form of celebration which embraces everyone, but without damaging the tradition, the spokesman said.
The licencing council said it will give its ruling as soon as possible.
The Parool reported on Wednesday afternoon that the Zwarte Piet character first joined the arrival of Sinterklaas in 1935, when six Surinamese sailors who were in town took part.
This year, some 600 Piets are expected to be part of the procession in Amsterdam on November 17.
Sinterklaas'' black servant was created in 1850 by Jan Schenkman in his book St Nikolaas en zijn knecht. The character has since become an integral part of the Dutch Sinterklaas festivities and owes his black skin to the soot he picked up after climbing down chimneys to deliver presents.

MPs call on ministers to ditch illegal immigrant quota

A large majority of parliament on Thursday called on the government to end its police quota for catching people living in the Netherlands without proper papers.
MPs from the ruling Labour party sided with the opposition to try to force an end to the quota, which is currently set at 4,000 a year.
The Labour party voted to abolish the quota at its last party congress and made it a key issue in its calls for a more humane policy to deal with illegal immigrants.
Targets
It is not clear if junior justice minister Fred Teeven will follow parliament’s wishes.
Earlier this month it emerged police have arrested 3,220 illegal and criminal immigrants in the year to June 2013, well below the target of 4,000.
‘One reason could be that there are fewer illegal immigrants,’ a police spokesman told the Telegraaf. ‘But we could also be looking in the wrong places.''

Foreigners urged to state ''yes or no'' on organ donor register

Some 74,000 people who moved to the Netherlands around three years ago have been sent a letter by the health ministry asking them to register their names in the donor register. The mailing was sent as part of Donor Week, which runs until October 20. The week-long campaign is to encourage people to state whether or not they would like to donate their organs after their death or if they would like someone else to take that decision for them. This year the ministry and the Dutch Transplant Society are paying particular attention to new arrivals, with dedicated website pages and a targeted publicity campaign. Donor week kicks off with a live broadcast via YouTube featuring Dutch celebrities campaigning for people to register. Last year, the week-long campaign generated 38,000 new registrations. The Netherlands has around 5.6 million registered donors and a waiting list of some 1,300 patients. For instance, someone needing a kidney transplant can wait four years until a suitable kidney becomes available.


Schiphol workers in 15-strong gang arrested for smuggling cocaine

At least seven Schiphol airport workers have been arrested for smuggling cocaine into the Netherlands from central and South America, the public prosecution department said on Tuesday. In total, 15 people have been arrested in connection with the smuggling ring. Nearly all them live in Amsterdam, they have Dutch, Turkish and Colombian nationality and are aged between 23 and 65, news agency ANP said. The Schiphol workers were employed by the same company. They are alleged to have removed the cocaine which had been hidden in aircraft and shipped it onwards. Bad apples‘This has been a major hit,’ a spokesman for the Schiphol military police said. ‘Schiphol employs more than 60,000 people and sometimes there are a few rotten apples.’ More arrests have not been ruled out. Last year, at least 20 people were arrested at Schiphol airport as part of a six-month investigation into a drug smuggling ring. A number of them worked in the baggage handling department. And in July, three workers were arrested for stealing smartphones and other expensive items during passenger security checks.

 
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