Ruling party's plan for problem neighborhoods sparks fierce debate

Tweede Kamer
The Chairman's seat at the Tweede Kamerphoto: JanKranendonk / DepositPhotos

The VVD's proposal to punish law breakers in problem neighborhoods twice as harshly as someone from another neighborhood, led to sharp accusations during the first day of the General Political Considerations, the parliamentary debate on the government's budget and plans for next year, on Wednesday. 

VVD leader Klaas Dijkhoff announced this plan in newspaper AD on Wednesday morning. According to Dijkhoff, problem neighborhoods are neighborhoods "in which it is not clear who is in charge", neighborhoods were integration has failed. The government must find neighborhoods in which more than half of the residents are of non-western origin and where crime is high, he said. In those neighborhoods punishments should be twice as harsh. 

DENK parliamentarian Tunahan Kuzu called this postcode racism, NOS reports. CDA leader Syband Buma wondered how someone recruiting children from bad neighborhoods for drug dealing is worse than the same happening to kids from other neighborhoods. 

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold accused Dijkhoff of using "a trick" by going to a newspaper and using harsh words about tackling crime and disadvantages in certain city districts. Pechtold thinks that ultimately nothing will come of this plan, but by going to the newspaper Dijkhoff created the image that the VVD is working hard to tackle the problems in those neighborhoods. 

This made Dijkhoff angry. According to the VVD leader, it is easy to write off the plan "as a distinction on background or postal code". He said he made a proposal that he wants to talk about openly. "If it is up to you, nothing will be done for those children of four who do not yet speak a word of Dutch", he said to Pechtold. Dijkhoff also said that it is good for the freedom of all residents of bad neighborhoods that crime is better addressed in neighborhoods where you are more likely to become a victim.

The atmosphere in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of parliament, turned grim at this point, according to the broadcaster. GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver accused Dijkhoff of stepping on the bottom of society and degrading entire neighborhoods. Dijkhoff responded that Klaver is probably the best person to recognize that quality. Dijkhoff doesn't think that he is stepping on the bottom of society, but that he is standing up for the people living in those neighborhoods.