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Dutch asylum row escalates
The Dutch parliament has demanded the country's immigration minister reverse her decision to strip a controversial Somali-born MP of citizenship.
Last Modified: 17 May 2006 20:19 GMT
Verdonk has accepted a demand to rethink her decision
The Dutch parliament has demanded the country's immigration minister reverse her decision to strip a controversial Somali-born MP of citizenship.

On Tuesday MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali said she was resigning after Rita Verdonk, the immigration minister, told her she might lose her Dutch passport because she lied on her asylum application.

The two are both members of the same political party, the VVD.
   
In a parliament debate that raged into the early hours of Wednesday and gripped the nation, Verdonk, bidding to become her party's candidate for prime minister in the 2007 elections, came under attack from all the main parties, including her own.

Verdonk reluctantly accepted a demand by parliament to reconsider her decision within six weeks and said she would also look at any new request for citizenship immediately.

The drama is the latest sign of the political tremors that have shaken the once stable Netherlands since the 2002 rise and then murder of Pim Fortuyn.

He had argued that the densely-populated nation of 16 million could not absorb any more immigrants.

The country was thrown into turmoil again in 2004 when Theo van Gogh, the filmmaker, was murdered after he directed a film written by Hirsi Ali accusing Islam of suppressing women.

The film angered many of the country's 1 million Muslims.

'Iron Rita'

Hirsi Ali quit her post, admitting
she lied in her asylum bid

Dubbed 'Iron Rita', Verdonk has championed tough policies on immigration, but might have gone too far by insisting on such a strict adherence to the rules for her party colleague Hirsi Ali.

The row has divided the VVD and could hurt Verdonk's bid to become her party's lead election candidate, due to be decided on May 31.

A poll on Tuesday showed support for Verdonk falling sharply among VVD members and rising for her rival, Mark Rutte.

"The VVD parliamentarians are bewildered, shaken, angry and sad," VVD member Willibrord van Beek told the debate.

Other senior members of the VVD have hinted at switching their support to Rutte for the party leadership, Dutch news reports say.

Tougher policies

Hirsi Ali, who has drawn death threats for her fight for the rights of Muslim women, admitted using a false name and date of birth when she arrived in 1992 to stop her family finding her after she fled an arranged marriage with a cousin in Canada.

However, she said that had been public knowledge when the VVD chose her as a candidate in 2002 and said she would appeal.

A poll on Tuesday showed that the Dutch were divided on whether Verdonk was right to strip Hirsi Ali of citizenship, with 49% in favour and 43% against.

Verdonk has introduced tough new citizenship tests, demanded the expulsion of 26,000 unsuccessful asylum seekers and recently rejected fast-track Dutch citizenship for Ivorian footballer Salomon Kalou to allow him to play in the soccer World Cup.

Source:
Reuters
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