By Madeline Schiesser
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Authorities in the Dutch capital city have announced plans to evict and rehouse families who have been a persistent nuisance to their neighbors or police in container homes in an isolated part of the city.
The plan has been defended by authorities as a means to prevent bullying of innocent neighbors and reduce anti-social behavior. While innocent neighbors are often forced to leave due to trouble, the city council wants to reverse this trend.
Describing the current trend, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan had said “This is the world turned upside down.”
Council member Tahira Limon further explained: “Our plan is to combat bullying. Usually people are scared to report problems for fear of intimidation. It’s an upside down world and we want to change it so the people who cause the problems are moved.”
Authorities further assert that the council’s rules would only be enforced against offenders in extreme cases, such as if gay people were being harassed or if police witnesses were being intimidated.
However, under the plans which would take effect in January, offenders identified as nuisances, including families, would be rehoused for a period of 6 months or more, in a residence made from an industrial shipping container, away from the public, under 24-hour watch of police and social workers. There they would have access to only “minimal services.”
A special hotline and system for reporting complaints to the authorities is also planned. On average, Amsterdam receives 13,000 such complaints of anti-social behavior every year.
Presently, Amsterdam has special squads in place to identify offenders for compulsory six month behavioral courses. A special team of city hall officials is now being created to identify offenders who, if their behavior does not improve, will be subject to the rehousing program. Social housing problem tenants who do not show improvement or refuse to move to the cargo unit residences face eviction and homelessness.
Mayor van der Laan had tabled the 1 million € (£800,000; $1.3 million) plan several past years. However, some smaller scale, 10 shipping container residences have already been experimentally created for persistent offenders in Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands.
The Amsterdam council denies that it is creating a ghetto, and assets that is the last thing it wants to do. A spokesman for the council told the BBC that a ghetto full of troublemakers would just become a “hotbed for more trouble.”
Some have observed that the city council’s plan bears a resemblance to a proposal last year from Geert Wilders, the leader of a populist, anti-Islam, Right-wing party.
In an interview, Wilders was quoted as saying: “Repeat offenders should be forcibly removed from their neighborhood and sent to a village for scum. They will then be put into converted containers as homes. If juveniles are involved, their families should be moved too. Put all the trash together.”
Although a spokesman for the mayor has denied association with Wilders’ proposal, Wilders’ rhetoric has led to such rehousing projects being called “scum villages.”
Instead, the mayor’s spokesman explained that the cargo container residences would serve to enforce good behavior. “The aim is not to reward people who behave badly with a new five-room home with a south-facing garden. This is supposed to be a deterrent.”
For further information, please see:
BBC News – Amsterdam Plan to Rehouse Serial Nuisance Neighbours – 4 December 2012
The Telegraph – Amsterdam to Create ‘Scum Villages’ – 3 December 2012
Dutch News – Amsterdam Plans Caravan Exile for Nasty Neighbours – 30 November 2012
Dutch News – Set up Special Villages Away from Normal Folk for ‘Scum’, Says Wilders – 10 February 2011