Dutch FM under fire for discriminatory remarks

Foreign Minister Stef Blok calls Suriname 'a failed state' and says ethnic divisions are genetically determined.

    Politicians and refugee organisations have criticised Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok for claiming there are no peaceful multicultural societies. 

    Blok, a member of the liberal VVD, the largest party in the Netherlands, also said that Suriname has become a failed state because of its ethnic divide.

    The minister made the comments during a private event last week, where he met Dutch citizens working for international organisations.

    Footage of the speech was obtained by Zembla, a TV programme focused on investigative journalism.

    "Give me an example, of a multiethnic or multicultural society, where the original population are still living as well. [...] And where there are peaceful community relations. I'm not aware of any," Blok said during the event.

    After an audience member mentioned Suriname, a former Dutch colony, Blok disagreed vehemently. 

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    "Suriname peaceful? A functioning rule of law and democracy? Courageous, this remark. So the parties in Suriname are not divided by their ethnicity," Blok said.

    "I admire your optimism. Suriname is a failed state, and that is mostly due to ethnic division."

    After another audience member gave Singapore as an example, Blok said that is only because of Singapore's strict immigration policy.

    "Singapore is indeed a small mini-country, extremely selective in its migration. Extremely selective," the FM said.

    "It is very difficult to 'get in'. They don't allow any poor migrants in. Well, maybe for cleaning," he added.

    Genetically determined

    According to Blok, countries that receive a lot of migrants will run into trouble eventually.

    "If you live in Benoordenhout [a neighbourhood in The Hague], it's really great to be able to nip to the Turkish baker on a Sunday," Blok said.

    "You don’t suffer from any of the side effects [then]. But if you're surrounded by them, you suffer greatly.

    "I can't see the difference between a Hutu and a Tutsi, or a Sunni or a Shiite, but unfortunately they do. It has nothing to do with skin colour," he added. 

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    Blok said this was all because of human genetics, claiming that people "don't find it easy to make connections with people who are unfamiliar to us".

    The foreign minister also said the European Union would never get Eastern European countries to accept as many refugees as other EU countries, and that people of colour leave cities like Warsaw only days after arriving because they are beaten and harassed.

    'Unworthy of a minister'

    Blok's remarks were heavily criticised by Dutch politicians and human rights organisations.

    Lilian Ploumen, chairwoman of the social-democratic PvdA party and former minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, said she will ask questions in parliament about Blok's remarks.

    Stichting Vluchtelingenwerk, an NGO focused on the rights of refugees, said in a tweet the comments were "unworthy of a minister", adding that it welcomed Blok to join in charity work benefiting refugees.

    Lilian Marijnissen, leader of the Socialist Party in the Dutch parliament, simply tweeted Blok's name and included a picture of a quote by Nelson Mandela.

    Green party MP Zihni Ozdil, who is of Turkish descent, said in a post on Facebook that Blok "not only offends people that look like me, but our whole national history and identity".

    Leader of the far-right PVV party Geert Wilders called Blok "a weakling" for apologising for his comments and said he completely agreed with Blok's remarks. 

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    Joel Voordewind, member of parliament for the Christian ChristenUnie party, called the minister's statements "unfortunate".

    Following the publication of the video, Blok said he was sorry for the remarks he made in a letter addressed to the Dutch parliament.

    In the letter, Blok said his comments were merely made "to provoke", that his wording was "too sharp" and that he "is sorry if his comments led to anyone being offended."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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