I think that it is best to allow Georg Schreuder Hes speak since this is his commentary:
Immigrant youths turn to violence in Amsterdam
Commentary by Georg Schreuder Hes
Extra police on the street in the Slotervaart district of Amsterdam on Monday evening around 2300.
Photo: ANP/Evert Elsinga
It has been an unusually violent week for Amsterdam’s western
Slotervaart district. Cars were torched and youths clashed with police
on several consecutive nights after a 22-year-old ethnic Moroccan was
shot dead at a police station. He was killed by a policewoman he had
just stabbed a number of times. The riots that followed reminded
Amsterdam’s Chief Commissioner Bernard Welten of a major nightmare for
Western European cities: violence on a Parisian scale.
Every major town in the Netherlands has its share of so-called problem
youths, the type of violent adolescents who gang up to terrorise the
neighbourhood. Many of them are the children of migrant workers of
Moroccan descent who arrived in the Netherlands in the late 1960s and
early 1970s. The Dutch called them guest workers, the operative idea
being that they would return to their country of origin when they were
no longer needed. So nobody bothered to teach them Dutch, or much of
anything else for that matter. The guest workers had their wives come
over, but they, just like their husbands were not expected, or
encouraged, to integrate into Dutch society.
The next generation
However, very few went back. What they did do, much to the government’s
surprise, was have children. These children were raised in a strange
and often openly hostile environment, by parents who did not speak the
language and tried to instil moral values completely at odds with those
of the country they lived in. So, kids being kids, they began taking
advantage of the language gap by playing off their parents against
their teachers and pretending not to understand what any Dutch person
in a position of authority was saying.
The situation was substantially exacerbated by successive governments
that chose to ignore what people in the streets knew was an
increasingly serious problem. For years, political correctness dictated
that problems with migrant children could not be openly discussed.
Anybody trying to do so would be accused of blatant racism and
Islamophobia. So by the time the social climate began to change, in the
late 1990s, the situation had spun well and truly out of control.
Slotervaart, a district in the west of Amsterdam, is not very different
from any other poor district in the Netherlands’ major cities. What
sets it apart from similar districts is a recent series of violent
incidents. On 11 October, a 16 year-old Moroccan boy died of a stab
wound he sustained in a fight with a 14-year-old classmate after the
two got into an argument over a pen. Only three days later, a disturbed
Moroccan man walked into the local police station and, without any
provocation, stabbed and seriously injured a police woman and one of
her colleagues. The man was shot dead by one of the officers.
In the following days, local Moroccan youths torched four cars in the
district and smashed the windows of the police station. Since then,
police have been intensively patrolling the district, which led to the
arrests of eight youths who were detained when officers found jerry
cans full of petrol in their vehicle. In the past few days, senior
police officers have been making comparisons with the riots that raged
in Paris in which more than 9,000 cars were torched two years ago.
However, both Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst and experts
on the Moroccan youth gangs issue say that the two situations are
fundamentally different. There is reportedly far more poverty,
unemployment and racism in the Paris suburbs. Criminologist Frank van
Gemert from the Free University said in today’s de Volkskrant
that another major difference with the French situation lies in the
fact that the Dutch government is spending millions of euros on aid to
the Slotervaart district. And police are in regular contact with
religious leaders and other representatives of the local community. Mr
Van Gemert says these youths may feel frustrated, but they can’t say
that they are being abandoned by the government.
His argument that they are simply using the recent incidents as an
excuse to raise hell is born out by police reports showing that they
are dealing with a limited group of around 35 youths, all of them
repeat offenders. In NRC.Next,
district council chair Ahmed Marcouch says that the vandalism in his
district has nothing to do with emotions over the recent deaths:
“Emotions? That’s giving them way to much credit. These punks have no emotions for anyone.”
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