Sinterklaas 'arrives' in Zaandijk, arrests in Rotterdam, Eindhoven

The 'arrival' of Sinterklaas in the Noord-Holland village of Zaandijk passed off peacefully on Saturday but there were clashes between pro and anti-Zwarte Piet activists at processions in other parts of the country. Three arrests were made in Rotterdam after a confrontation between pro and anti-Piet campaigners, police said. 'The anti-Piet demonstrators wanted to end their protest and were crossing the [Erasmus] bridge when two cars stopped. Several people jumped out and started attacking them,' police said in a statement. One anti-Piet demonstrator was arrested in Rotterdam for hanging up a banner stating 'Zwarte Piet is racisme'. This was against the rules laid down by mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, the AD said. Football supporters In Eindhoven a group of about 20 activists from the Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) campaign group were attacked by a large group of PSV football supporters who threw eggs and tin cans at them, news agency ANP said. Wow dit gebeurt in Eindhoven op het Catharinaplein @ED_Regio — Meike Jentjens (@meikejentjens) November 17, 2018 In Groningen and Leeuwarden there were also clashes between football supporters and the police. In Hoorn, police took action to stop pro-Piet demonstrators verbally attacking opponents. In Zaanstad itself, where the main arrival procession took place, four people were arrested. Two were picked up for breach of the peace, one for throwing stones at the enclosure where anti-Piet demonstrators were, and one for not carrying ID. Nevertheless, 'Zaandstad can be proud' of how the ceremony passed off, the Telegraaf said. 'The security measures and the well-behaved crowd created an unforgettable day.' Television Earlier in the day, police in Alkmaar stopped a bus carrying anti-Piet demonstrators from going to Den Helder to protest. Police said the KOZP protestors had not kept to agreements. The Sinterklaas arrival ceremony, shown live on television, marks the start of over three weeks of festivities in the run up to December 5. On Sunday, the Amsterdam procession takes place. In the Dutch capital, blackface Piets have been entirely replaced by Piets with sooty faces.  More >

Pension negotiations to continue next week

Marathon talks between unions and employers have failed to produce an agreement on changes to the current Dutch corporate pension system and will continue after the weekend. Prime minister Mark Rutte was also involved in the talks at the social affairs ministry for a time but declined to comment on the progress to reporters. Unions and employers are trying to come to a deal about pension reform which will then become the basis for new legislation. The change is necessary because the aging population is putting more pressure on the current pension system and pension funds are having to pay out to more people for longer. Talks on reform began several years ago. State pension age One important theme has been the way the rise in the state pension age has been linked to increasing life expectancy. Unions in particular say this is forcing people who do heavy physical labour to work too long in arduous jobs. The state pension age in the Netherlands is currently 66 but will rise to 67 and three months by 2022. However, sources in The Hague have told broadcaster NOS that ministers are prepared to relax this rule, despite the considerable cost to the treasury. The government is also keen to introduce ‘personal pension pots’ to bring more flexibility into the pension system. Currently, the Dutch corporate pension sector is dominated by industry or company-based schemes. The Dutch pension scheme is widely considered to be one of the best in the world.  More >

No poaching 'in principle': football clubs

Eredivisie logo Leading Eredivisie football clubs have agreed 'in principle' to no longer poach promising youth players from each other, the Parool reported on Friday. Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, FC Utrecht, Vitesse and AZ have come to a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ in order to raise the overall level of football in the Netherlands, according to chairman of the organisation of top flight clubs Jacco Swart. The measure is part of a package of reforms which includes more time for preparation for clubs which have qualified for the Champions League or the Europa League and a bonus for clubs which play on grass rather than artificial turf. The clubs have also agreed on a much higher payment for taking on a youth player from another club. ‘This means the incentive to do this will be smaller. But at the same time, if it does happen, clubs will be looking at a much more substantial financial reward,’ Swart told the paper. Dutch football association KNVB will look at the plans at its next meeting, the Parool said.  More >

Policeman's son was at cafe shooting

Police badge and radio. The 18-year-old youth who died after being dumped outside a Zoetermeer hospital with gun shot wounds was shot by police, investigators confirmed on Friday. The teenager, named by Dutch media as Wessel, is now known to be the son of a police officer and appears to have been involved in a shooting incident at a cannabis cafe in Delft earlier on October 8, the public prosecution department said. The shooting happened when a police officer saw two young men on a moped pull up outside The Game cannabis cafe. One got off and pointed what looked like a weapon at the cafe, at which point the police officer intervened and opened fire. The two suspects got away but 45 minutes later, one youth, named as Wessel, was left outside the Lange Land hospital with serious injuries. He later died. Telephone information, surveillance camera images and eye witnesses put the youth firmly in front of The Game cannabis cafe, the investigators found. Delft has been hit by a string of violent incidents this year. In June, three people were arrested in connection with a series of shootings and a grenade attack in which a coffee shop, tanning studio, jewellery store and clothes shop came under fire. Police believe the incidents, which all took place in the early morning, may be linked to a gangland turf war.  More >

Police find 10,000 kilos of fireworks

Police say they have discovered 10,000 kilos of illegal fireworks in a warehouse in Vijfhuizen near Haarlem after an anonymous tip-off. Police searched four homes in Haarlem and arrested four locals between the ages of 25 and 45. Two trucks were needed to collect the fireworks and move them to safety. The transportation and storage of fireworks is a moot point with police officers because of the dangers involved. Just this week it emerged that private security guards will help the police keep watch on confiscated fireworks until they can be picked up by specialised transport companies. In 2017 police tracked down a total of 40,000 kilos of illegal fireworks, ahead of the New Year firework frenzy. The score for this year now stands at 23,874 kilos so far.   More >

Life in NL hard for Eritrean refugees

Eritrean refugees are having a difficult time adapting to life in the Netherlands, the Netherlands Institute for Social Research SCP said in a report published on Friday. The refugees, most of whom are fleeing from the open-ended compulsory military service in their country, are often traumatised by the long and dangerous journey they have made to the Netherlands, having faced exploitation and sexual abuse on the way, the SCP writes. Once in the Netherlands, the wait for a permanent residency status often leads to frustration and boredom. Learning Dutch, a requisite for a permanent status, is another stumbling block, with refugees unable to choose a suitable language school. Many of the 26 Eritreans interviewed by the SCP said they were worried about not being able to meet the three-year deadline for the ‘inburgerings exam’ which means they would have to pay back their loan and a fine on top. The Eritrean refugees, most of whom arrived in 2015, came to the Netherlands without their partners and getting family members to join them is proving more difficult than they have been led to believe, the SCP writes.  This is putting them under even more pressure. Officials Contacts with officialdom in the Netherlands is often difficult because the refugees are unable to explain what they need and complain about a lack of patience, understanding and help while organisations say they are confronted with mistrust and a lack of initiative. Most Eritreans have not been able to find a job. Professions that are familiar to them, such as baker, furniture maker or welder, are not accessible to them because they require diplomas. According to recent figures from national statistics office CBS, 80% of Eritrean refugees in the Netherlands are unemployed. Because of the lack of Dutch language skills social contacts are usually limited to fellow Eritreans, the SCP writes. Although an important source of emotional support it also means that Eritreans are in danger of becoming ‘trapped’ in their own culture which is not conducive to integration, the SCP said. There are some 20,000 Eritreans in the Netherlands, of whom around 75% are under the age of 30.  More >