Winter's coming: colder weather to set in next weekend

The temperature is set to drop the coming weekend, bringing clear skies and night frosts to the Netherlands, weather forecasters say. The temperature will go down to around 5 degrees but it will feel colder in the chilly easterly winds. The change in the weather is due to a high pressure zone above Scandinavia, which is driving cold air down from the north and east. The cold, dry weather is likely to continue until the end of the month, according to Weerplaza weatherman Wilfred Janssen. 'It won't be cold enough to skate, but drivers should make sure they have found their de-icing equipment.' The KNMI also says there is a 90% chance that the cold weather, with temperatures well below the seasonal average, will continue to the end of the month.   More >

UN experts accuse social workers of racism

United Nations racism experts have accused Dutch social workers of racism after seven children of African descent were forcibly removed from their parents. Police took the children, including a breastfeeding baby, into care in May. However, this was done 'without duly considering their best interests, preserving the family structure or first providing instructions on how to combat problems in the home,' the UN experts, who work on behalf of the Human Rights Council, said. The UN claims research shows that negative stereotypes about parents of African descent drive heightened reporting of maltreatment and greater involvement with state agencies for children of African descent in the Netherlands. The decision to remove the children from the home was taken without any judicial oversight. The children have not been able to see their parents since then. 'This family separation has caused immense trauma and psychological damage and we are deeply troubled about the impact on the children’s physical and mental wellbeing,' the experts are quoted as saying. 'We have raised our concerns with the government of the Netherlands, and called on them to investigate this case, reunite the family and guarantee equal treatment before the law,' the experts said. The Dutch government, the UN said, has denied racial discrimination or impropriety and said claims of racial bias should be reported to the police and local anti-discrimination services.  More >

IND pays over €1m in compensation claims

Refugee children on the Syrian border. The Dutch immigration service has paid refugees more than €1m in compensation over the past year because officials took too long to make decisions, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday. The final total could be up to four times that because thousands of claims still have to be assessed, the paper said. It now takes almost a year for an asylum seeker to hear if they can stay in the Netherlands, but the legal limit is just six months. In addition, requests to bring in family members, which should also take no more than six months, are also taking up to a year. If a claim takes longer than six months, lawyers can apply for compensation for their clients, a claim which can mount up to €1,260 if the IND fails to reply in time. So far this year, 1,080 claims have been processed and 3,610 are still waiting assessment. The total bill to the IND has been €1,036,438. The main reason for the lengthy procedures is the shortage of staff. The IND workforce was reduced after the refugee boom in 2015 but officials failed to take into account the number of family reunifications or the surge in claims from countries considered to be safe. Some lawyers do not make a claim because their clients are worried it could affect their cases, the Volkskrant said.  More >

Clinics open door to gay couple parenthood

Gay men who want to become fathers will no longer have to travel abroad to use IVF services via a surrogate mother, television current affairs show De Monitor said on Tuesday. At least two IVF clinics are to start offering services to gay couples next year, the programme said. One in Leiderdorp will help fertilising a surrogate mother's own eggs while a second, in Elsendorp, will allow couples to provide an egg from a sister or other family member for a better genetic match. A fertility centre in Zwolle and the VU teaching hospital in Amsterdam are also considering offering IVF treatment to gay couples with a surrogate. The VU is the only Dutch hospital where heterosexual couples can try for a test-tube baby via a surrogate. 'This is a major step forward. This news means gay couples can become parents and gives surrogates the support of gynaecologists,' said Luc Nibbeling, of the foundation Meer dan Gewenst, which supports gay parents. Every year, several dozen gay couples approach doctors about becoming parents, gynaecologist Annemiek Nap told the programme.  More >

Less livestock key to cutting manure fraud

The only way to stop farmers committing fraud by dumping more manure on their land than allowed is to reduce the number of cows, pigs and chickens on Dutch farms, according to the public prosecutor in charge of environmental crime. Rob de Rijck told the NRC in an interview that little has improved in the approach towards fraud with manure since the NRC uncovered major problems in Brabant and Limburg in 2017. Plans to set up a nationwide task force have not materialised and both the public prosecution department and product safety authority do not have enough capacity to carry out proper checks, De Rijck said. 'More manure is being produced than the land can cope with,' he said. 'From a criminal law perspective, the only thing that can be done is to reduce the amount of manure. We should have less livestock.' The Netherlands is currently allowed to spread more manure on farmland than in other EU countries but that could change next year when the EU reconsiders the rules. Forgery The NRC found last year that farmers are forging their accounts, illegally trading their manure or dumping more on their land than permitted by law, while transport companies are fiddling lorry weights and making unrecorded trips to dump manure at night. Brabant and Limburg are home to 60% of all pigs, 40% of all chickens and one sixth of all cows in the country which together produce 16.5 billion kilos of manure. Factory farms are subject to strict rules about how much manure they can put on their land. The rest has to be disposed off or traded with other farmers who have not used up their own manure quotas. But disposal costs money and some farmers are unwilling to spend the cash. Instead, they falsify their own manure records, in some cases, by doctoring manure samples to alter the concentration of phosphates and nitrates, the paper said.  More >

18 carbon monoxide incidents in six weeks

A total of 40 people have been taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning in the past six weeks, the Dutch fire brigade said on Tuesday. Carbon monoxide is spread by defect central heating boilers, poor ventilation and blocked-up chimneys. 'It is not yet really cold but we have already had so many problems,' spokesman Jet Vroege said. There have been 18 separate incidents involving what Vroege called the 'silent killer' in the past six weeks. Last year, two people died and 114 people were hospitalised after carbon monoxide leaks, the fire brigade said. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and nausea.  More >

Lower pay demand no help to older jobless

Despite the economic revival and the mounting shortage of staff in some sectors, the over 50s still find it hard to get a look-in, the Telegraaf reported on Tuesday. Even if the over 50s lower their salary expectations, companies still don't want to employ them, research using information gleaned from the government's socio-cultural think-tank SCP has found. 'If older workers mention their previous salary, employers think they are too expensive,' Utrecht University professor Joop Schippers told the paper. 'But if they ask for a more modest salary, employers begin to think something is not right and that the candidate does not believe he or she are right for the job.' Schippers studied the experiences of hundreds of people who took part in the SCP's biennial labour market report. He found that older workers apply for jobs just as much as younger people and are prepared to reduce their salary expectations, but they are still less likely to get a job. Even if someone over the age of 55 is prepared to cut their salary demand by 25% their chance of getting a job only rises from 17% to 24%, Schippers found. Figures from the national jobs agency UWV show that half the over 50s who lose their jobs are out of work for more than a year, compared with one third of the workforce in general. Schippers' research will be published in the academic journal Tijdschift voor Arbeidsvraagstukken shortly, the Telegraaf said.  More >