Controversial politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali looks set to leave the Netherlands. The conservative member of parliament will announce later this week that she is to move to the United States where – according to Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant – she will be working for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C.
Ms Hirsi Ali’s quitting of Dutch politics and the Netherlands follows on from a television documentary, shown last week, which reported that she lied in the early 1990s about how she fled her native country, Somalia, in order to gain asylum in the Netherlands. Since the broadcast, there have been calls from various quarters for her to lose her Dutch passport.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s departure from the Netherlands bears a strong resemblance to her arrival on the country’s political stage: stormy and with a ‘big bang’. Right from the outset, in 2003, she was the focus of much attention, and her clear and tough position towards Islam helped put that subject at the very top of the national political agenda. People are either for her, or against her – there seems to be no middle ground when it comes to opinions about Ms Hirsi Ali.
The latest, rapid developments surrounding her were sparked by the television documentary, in which journalists took a closer look at the story Ms Hirsi Ali told the immigration authorities when she arrived in the Netherlands in 1992. At the time, she did not provide correct information about her name, her age or the country from which she had travelled to the Netherlands. And it was partly on the basis of these inaccurate details that the Somali-born refugee later became a naturalised Dutch citizen in 1997.
Law Professor Gerard-René de Groot of Maastricht University says that the fact that someone furnished incorrect information when applying to become a Dutch citizen is sufficient reason for them to lose their passport:
“In recent years, policy has developed in such a way that if you provide a false name or false personal details when applying for naturalisation, the conclusion must be in such a case that Dutch citizenship was in fact never acquired.”
While the television documentary has caused an outcry in some quarters, it should be noted, however, that Ayaan Hirsi Ali has never really made a secret of how she fled her country and ultimately ended up in the Netherlands. Indeed, she talked about it publicly in interviews she gave a number of years ago. It would appear that no one was too concerned about the facts of her case at that time. In 2003, when the liberal-conservative VVD party approached her about standing as an election candidate, she also revealed that she had lied, but – once again – this appears not to have met with any objections from the party leadership.
Now, however, former VVD leader Hans Dijkstal has said that Ms Hirsi Ali should give up her seat in parliament and that she can no longer keep her Dutch passport. Responding to a question about the possibility of her retaining her current status, he commented:
“I should think not. What are other people in a comparable situation then supposed to think? That would be inequality before the law. And she should also be asking herself whether she can go on serving any longer in parliament.”
Meanwhile, the affair is also a source of embarrassment for Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk (photo), who is also a member of the VVD and currently campaigning to be the party’s next leader.
In recent years, she has made it her task to toughen up and tighten the country’s policy on immigrants and refugees, and has consistently maintained that people who tell lies in order to enter and stay in the country must be deported.
This is why, earlier this year, she took a controversial decision to send a teenage schoolgirl from Kosovo back to the place of her birth just weeks before she would have taken her final exams here in the Netherlands. Now she appears to be taking a similar strong stance on Ms Hirsi Ali – always a wholehearted supporter of Ms Verdonk’s policies.
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