Netherlands to grant asylum to 27 Syrian White Helmets: report

The White Helmets rescuing a victim from bombing rubble (Photo: Syria Civil Defense)The White Helmets rescuing a victim from bombing rubble (Photo: Syria Civil Defense)

The Netherlands will grant asylum to 27 White Helmet rescue workers evacuated from Syria, in the midst of an offensive by the Syrian regime, in July. The White Helmets coming to the Netherlands are five families and three individuals, NRC reports.

A total of 422 White Helmets and their family members were evacuated from Syria. They were brought to safety in Jordan via Israel. The United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, France and Sweden all said they were willing to take in a number of them.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would not tell ANP when the Syrian aid workers will be coming to the Netherlands, in order to protect their privacy.

NRC also reports that the Netherlands is stopping support to the White Helmets as of the end of this year. The Netherlands is the only European country to do so. Raed Alsaleh, director of the White Helmets, has the impression that the Dutch government is not differentiating between the White Helmets and other programs that were part of the so-called 'non-lethal assistance' the Netherlands gave to Syrian rebel groups, he said to the newspaper. The non-lethal assistance program was halted in the spring. 

The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, will debate this non-lethal assistance on Tuesday afternoon. The government promised that the assistance would only go to 'moderate' rebel groups. But Trouw and Nieuwsuur revealed that assistance went to at least one group that is considered a terrorist organization by the Dutch Public Prosecutor. The government was aware that the group is suspected of violating human rights when the support started. And the support was given without consulting the government's External Public Law Adviser, a position specifically created to advise on this type intervention in a foreign state.