Weert mayor praised for pushing courts to punish curfew breaking asylum seekers

Several parliamentarians are praising Weert mayor Jos Heijmans for his persistence in getting six North-African asylum seekers prosecuted for breaking curfew over New Year's. On Thursday Heijmans announced that he is turning to court after the Public Prosecutor decided not to prosecute these men.

Over the holidays in December Heijmans put a group of 20 North-African asylum seekers under a type of house arrest. Between December 21st and January 2nd, they were only allowed outside for an hour a day and had to report to security guards on a regular basis. The mayor implemented this emergency decree after incidents involving pickpocketing, theft, fights and vandalism, BNR reported at the time.

Six of the group ignored this decree. The Public Prosecutor decided not to prosecute them for this, NOS reports. According to the Prosecutor, such a deprivation of freedom must be focused on specific individuals, and the Weert mayor's house arrest was not. Therefore the asylum seekers cannot be prosecuted successfully. Heijmans (D66) is now turning to court.

His persistence is earning him praise from a number of parliamentarians. CDA MP Mona Keijzer called going to court a "sensible step" in a statement to the Telegraaf. "If you misbehave in this country, you have to accept the consequences", she said. VVD parliamentarian Malik Azmani agreed: "It can't be that people who seek safety here, put the safety of others at risk. I would like to see these people leave the country, but a criminal conviction is required for that", he said to the newspaper. 

D66 parliamentarian Maarten Groothuizen: "The mayor has a big heart for asylum seekers, but is also strict on people who misbehave. He is right to go to court."

The Weert mayor's actions sparked a debate about whether asylum seekers from countries considered to be safe are prosecuted for crimes in the Netherlands. According to the Telegraaf, this is often not the case, because deportation is more difficult if the asylum seeker has a criminal case ongoing against him.

The newspaper writes that it received "thousands" of documents from the police about crimes committed by asylum seekers in the Netherlands. According to the newspaper, these documents show that two thirds of asylum seekers that misbehave or commit crimes come from safe countries like Morocco, Algeria and Albania. 

Since last year the police kept lists of problems caused by asylum seekers from countries considered to be safe, the Telegraaf reports. Crimes mostly involve shoplifting, theft, insult or threats. One asylum seeker is suspected of 13 crimes, according to the newspaper. 

Exactly how many asylum seekers weren't prosecuted after committing a crime, the newspaper doesn't say. Critics call these kind of reports another form of racism.

A survey RTL Nieuws did among 42 municipalities in December showed that 14 municipalities had problems with asylum seekers over last year. 28 of the questioned municipalities said they had no or no noteworthy problems.