House sales highest ever in autumn 2017

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More houses than ever before sold in the Netherlands this autumn, according to the CBS statistics office.

More than 61,000 homes changed hands in the third quarter of 2017, raising more than €16 million for the sellers.

This was more than 1% higher than the same period last year, and there was particular growth in detached house sales (up 8%) although 4% fewer apartments were sold than last year.

In Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht, prices were more than a tenth higher than the same period last year, but the actual number of sales fell. By contrast, there were higher sales and prices in The Hague, and the rest of the Netherlands.

Last week, real estate agency association NVM reported that Amsterdam prices had fallen most recently and the ‘top of the market’ there may have been reached.

CBS figures: price (orange) and number of sales (yellow) per region

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Meat feast? Consumption of meat levels off in NL

Processed meats in a market

People in the Netherlands ate an average of almost 77kg of meat last year, according to a new report from Wageningen Economic Research.

A comparison of meat consumption across Europe from 2005 to 2016 suggests that in recent years, the Dutch had been consuming a lot less but that this trend has now levelled off.

By contrast, the amounts eaten in Belgium, Germany and Europe as a whole dropped.

The Netherlands, however, still eats less meat – as measured through discarded animal carcasses – than the EU average of about 86kg per person last year. Pork was the most popular meat, followed by chicken and then beef.

WRR, the scientific council that advises on government policy, has recommended reducing meat consumption, particularly of processed foods.

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#MeToo anti-sexual harassment campaign takes off in NL

The #MeToo campaign – women sharing their experiences of sexual harassment on Twitter in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein affair– is taking on momentum in the Netherlands.

Thousands of women from all walks of life are telling their stories, with the latest accusations coming from the academic world.

Talk shows and papers in the Netherlands have featured accounts from women who say their lives and careers were blighted by saying no.

Former television presenter Anneke Bakker told DWDD host Matthijs van Nieuwkerken how she believes rejecting the sexual overtures of her superior lost her the job some 35 years ago. On the late show, Pauw, swimmer Ela Hutten claimed her coach had sexually abused her from age 12 to 14.

The Dutch allegations come in the wake of multiple accusations of harassment and abuse against Hollywood producer Weinstein, who is being investigated by police in London, Los Angeles and New York.

‘Tell all’

It is by no means the first time women have taken to social media to denounce sexual intimidation, the Volkskrant writes.

Writer Anke Laterveer introduced the hashtag #ZegHet (tell all) two years ago when, she claims, she was sexually assaulted and the perpetrator was not brought to justice.

‘There is something comforting about a collective confession such as this,’ Utrecht university social scientist Linda Duits told the paper. ‘A hashtag has momentum and gives women the strength to confront the outside world because they know they are not alone.’

The Dutch reaction has been given added impetus by the murder of Anne Faber, which instigated discussions about women’s safety, Duits said.

But she does not believe the Twitter campaign is likely to generate a useful dialogue. ‘Discussing solutions is different from calling all men assholes,’ she told the paper, adding that these lie in better education.

Poll

A poll conducted last month by public broadcaster NOS among 1000 men and women from 18 to 35 showed profound differences in attitudes around touching a female body uninvited.

A full 100% of women said being groped in the crotch or breasts is totally unacceptable, with a small percentage of men thinking this could be acceptable. The male respondents scored consistently higher when it comes to the acceptability of touching other parts of women’s bodies.

The greatest discrepancy the poll found was over touching a woman’s stomach area without asking: 30 percent of men thought this was permissible, with 76% of women saying this was on the edge or over acceptable boundaries.

Meanwhile caretaker education minister Jet Bussemaker told NOS on Friday that the problem does not concern women alone.

‘That so many women are only coming forward now is indicative how ashamed they feel. This is a problem for society as a whole and we should encourage men to become involved,’ she told NOS.

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Bill for car fires reaches €40m as arsonists strike more often

a car on fire

The number of car fires in the Netherlands has reached a five-year high, with over 2,808 cars set ablaze in the nine months to the end of September, according to new figures from national insurance association Verbond van Verzekeraars.

More cars are set on fire in Noord-Brabant and Zuid-Holland than other parts of the country – there have been 506 fires in Noord-Brabant and 463 in Zuid-Holland so far this year. In Zeeland, by contrast, there have been just 58.

The figures only include cars with all-risk insurance and would be far higher if all cars destroyed by fire are included, the VvV said.

Only a tiny fraction of fires are due to electric failures and most are started deliberately.

The insurers say the average damage to a car is €10,000, taking the total damages bill for a year to some €40m.

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Rotterdam man faces eight years in jail for planning terrorist attack

Photo: Depositphotos.com

A 31-year-old man from Rotterdam should be jailed for eight years for preparing to carry out a terrorist attack in the Netherlands, the public prosecution department said on Thursday.

Jaouad A was arrested last December following a tip-off from the security services. At his home in the port city police found an automatic weapon, ammunition and a large number of illegal fireworks containing almost nine kilos of explosives. On his computer they found instructions for making a bomb using gunpowder and 289 IS videos, including executions.

In evidence, the department said the AIVD security service had recorded A talking to other men about an attack on the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, which is close to his home, the Telegraaf reported.

‘Near me you’ve got the Turkish embassy [consulate, ed]. It’s a 500 metre walk. You walk in and you shoot or you throw something. That is something I can do,’ A is quoted as saying.

A told the high-security court in Rotterdam the conversation was much longer than the eight minute transcript provided in court and that the shortened version was out of context.

The court will announce its verdict in two weeks.

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Brush up your language skills with a little Dutch courage

A little bit of Dutch courage could be the answer to developing better foreign language skills, according to researchers at Maastricht University, Liverpool University and King’s College London.

The researchers tested the effect of a low dose of alcohol on participants’ abilities to speak Dutch and found that a beer actually boosted their skills.

The survey focused on 50 German students studying at Maastricht who were learning Dutch. They were asked to drink either the equivalent of half a litre of beer or a non-alcoholic drink before talking Dutch for a few minutes.

Their language skills were then rated by two native Dutch speakers who did not know which of the participants had been drinking. The research guinea pigs also assessed their own language skills.

The researchers found that participants who had consumed alcohol had significantly better ratings for their Dutch language, pronunciation in particular, compared to those who had not been drinking.

However, alcohol had no effect on the participant’s own ratings of their language skills.

While the study shows that alcohol may have beneficial effects on pronunciation, Maastricht University’s Fritz Renner said it is important to point out that the participants only had a low dose. ‘Higher levels of alcohol consumption might not have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language,’ broadcaster RTL Nieuws quotes him as saying.

The findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

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Muslim police trainee asks for right to wear headscarf in uniform

Helmets and headscarves?    Photo: Graham Dockery

A police cadet from Rotterdam has gone to the Dutch human rights commission to ask for the right to wear a headscarf with her police uniform.

The woman, a new recruit who has not been named, believes she is suffering from religious discrimination in being forbidden from wearing the Muslim head covering.

She is asking for a ruling on her case, but also in the interest of others, according to a police press release on Wednesday.

Police lawyers are arguing that she can wear a headscarf in the office, but when in contact with the public, she must ‘comply with uniform rules’ and – the body argues – the uniform is ‘neutral’.

‘The police code of conduct is clear, the [woman’s] employer believes,’ says the release. ‘Visible expressions of beliefs and opinions are not permitted.’

Diversity

But the woman’s lawyer claimed that the police are selective in applying this ruling, allowing wedding rings – for instance – which are arguably an indication of lifestyle and belief.

According to NU.nl, the woman in question also believes that allowing headscarves with police uniform will encourage more diversity in the police – something acknowledged by the head of the service as an aim, after evidence of ethnic profiling.

In May, Amsterdam police considered making a headscarf an option with police uniform to attract more people from ethnic minorities. But police chief Erik Akerboom opposed this.

In addition, an Amsterdam police woman who went on patrol wearing a headscarf under her cap later that month was heavily criticised for her action.

A verdict from the human rights commission is expected on 14th November.

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Airport noise miscalculation means Schiphol effects to be reanalysed

Photo: jvanderwolf via Depositphotos

The government has acknowledged that noise levels estimated from air traffic have been miscalculated, broadcaster NOS reports.

Sharon Dijksma, minister for infrastructure and environment, has now reportedly acknowledged that this means the local effects of Schiphol airport and its potential growth must be reassessed.

Leon Adegeest, a member of the HoogOverijssel campaign group and a software specialist, became suspicious when seeing figures that claimed aircraft at 900 metres cause no noise.

Although when a plane is flying low, it causes more noise on land than when it is high, he told the NOS Radio 1: ‘Planes fly very low over Zwolle and I saw that no noise nuisance was predicted. That can’t be right. Even with common sense you can see this. There was something strange going on.’

After the government refused to release calculations, he made his own software and discovered where the infrastructure and environment ministry had gone wrong, using incorrect calculations for the Boeing 737 engine’s noise.

The figures he was analysing came from nuisance from Lelystand Airport but the same model was apparently used to make calculations for Schiphol.

A reanalysis could limit how much the Netherlands’ main airport is permitted to grow from 2020, reports the Financieele Dagblad.

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Some 6,000 people a year in the Netherlands are victims of trafficking

Red light district in Amsterdam.Hundreds of victims end up in prostitution. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Over 6,000 people in the Netherlands are the victims of human trafficking every year, two-thirds of whom are coerced into the sex trade, according to a new report from the national reporter on trafficking in human beings and sexual violence.

Dutch girls form the biggest group of victims – some 1,320 every year – but because they are more likely to be hidden victims, they don’t get the protection they need, the report states.

It is the first time the Dutch organisation has published an estimate for the number of trafficking victims. The research was carried out together with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Some 46% of cases involve coercion within the sex trade in the Netherlands itself and a further 21% stem from cross-border trafficking for the sex industry – mainly prostitution. Other areas of exploitation include forced labour and forced criminal activity.

One in six victims is male, of whom over 50% have been brought to the Netherlands and forced to work or to join criminal gangs, the report shows.

Estimates

The estimated total is over six times that of the actual number of reports, whose total fell 17% last year to 952.

‘I am extremely concerned about the drop in reports,’ said national reporter Corinne Dettmeijer. ‘Human trafficking is not in decline. We now know that the number of victims is around 6,250 a year and this means an increasing number of cases are under the radar.’

‘This should lead the police to make extra capacity free to combat human trafficking,’ she said.

Convictions

The number of people in the Netherlands found guilty of human trafficking went down 25% in 2016 to just 103, the NRC said earlier this year.

The maximum penalty for human trafficking was increased to 12 years in 2012 but that the average sentence was 585 days. Just five suspects last year were jailed for more than 1,500 days and almost a quarter of suspects are eventually found not guilty, the paper said.

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Amersfoort mayor appeals to minister about deportation of Down’s boy

The minister has been asked to use his discretionary powers. Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl

The mayor of Amersfoort has made an urgent appeal to justice minister Stef Blok not to deport a five-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome to Iraq.

The boy, his brother and mother face deportation to Baghdad after failing to win refugee status in the Netherlands. The child, nicknamed Zuzu, was born in Syria but has Iraqi nationality, like his mother. His father is Palestinian and lives with his sister in Syria.

Earlier this month, Amersfoort woman Deborah Ligtenberg started an online petition in protest at the planned deportation of the boy. It has since been signed some 15,000 times.

After speaking to Ligtenberg and the family’s lawyer, mayor Lucas Bolsius has decided to raise the issue with the minister, who has discretionary powers to grant the family refugee status on compassionate grounds.

Refugee camp

The justice ministry has not commented directly on the case. However, asked by broadcaster NOS if a child with Down’s would be more likely to be able to stay in the Netherlands, a spokesman said: ‘If a medical condition is involved, then it has to be asked if the person can get the care they need in the country of origin. Otherwise, the Netherlands will become the world’s hospital.’

In addition, ‘Down’s syndrome is not something which only occurs in the Netherlands,’ the spokesman is quoted as saying.

Down’s specialist Michel Weijerman told the AD last week that Zuzu’s position in Iraq will be ‘hopeless’. ‘He will live in a refugee camp, where his weak health will not be able to deal with the poor hygiene. In Iraq, he will go downhill physically, mentally and developmentally,’ Weijerman told the AD.

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