Dutch ministers quit over fire scandal

Two members of the Dutch government have resigned after a damning report detailed safety lapses at a detention centre where 11 illegal immigrants died in a fire last October.

    Immigration is a crucial issue in the Netherlands

    The report from the Dutch safety board on the fire at Amsterdam's Schipol airport concluded: "There would have been few or no victims to mourn if fire safety had received attention from the relevant authorities".

    Piet Hein Donner, the justice minister, and Sybilla Dekker, the housing minister, quit following the report's publication on Thursday in a major embarrassment for the government before elections in November.

    Hein Donner's department was heavily criticised for failings in safety measures at the centre of the airport, and ordered to examine fire safety at all penal institutes in the country within a year.

    Dekker ran the Government Buildings Agency which had commissioned the building and administered the complex.

    Shortcomings in the complex buildings had intensified the fire and made it harder for fire officers to reach those trapped and save lives, the report said. Staff were also inadequately trained for emergencies.

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    The government departments were not available for comment as Dutch television reported that both ministers would address parliament later on Thursday.

    "This is the harshest possible verdict the council could have reached," Femke Halsema, the parliamentary leader of the Green, told Dutch television.

    In August, the Dutch government granted residency to 39 illegal immigrants hurt in the fire and who are still suffering health problems.

    The Dutch centre-right coalition collapsed in June after disagreements over immigration policy, prompting the early elections in November.

    The fire sparked major criticism of the government's treatment of illegal immigrants and its plans to expel 26,000 failed asylum seekers.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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