Thu, Dec 06, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Amsterdam mayor planning to set up ‘scum villages’

The Guardian, LONDON

Amsterdam still looks liberal to tourists, who were recently assured by the mayor that the city’s marijuana-selling coffee shops would stay open, despite a new national law tackling drug tourism, but the Dutch city may lose its reputation for tolerance over plans to dispatch nuisance neighbors to “scum villages” made from shipping containers.

Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan insists his controversial new policy to tackle antisocial behavior is to protect victims of abuse and homophobia from harassment.

The camps, where antisocial tenants will be rehoused for three to six months, have been called “scum villages” because the policy echoes proposals from Geert Wilders, the far-right populist, who last year demanded that “repeat offenders” be “sent to a village for scum.”

However, Bartho Boer, a spokesman for the mayor, denied that the plans were illiberal.

“We want to defend the liberal values of Amsterdam,” he said. “We want everyone to be who he and she is — whether they are gay and lesbian, or stand up to violence and are then [become] victims of harassment. We, as a society, want to defend them.”

Boer said the villages are not for “the regular nuisance between two neighbors where one has the stereo too loud on Saturday night,” but “people who are extremely violent and intimidating, and in a clear situation where a victim is being repeatedly harassed.”

Those deemed guilty of causing “extreme havoc” would be evicted and placed in temporary homes of a “basic” nature, including converted shipping containers in industrial areas of the city.

“We call it a living container,” Boer said.

Housing antisocial tenants in these units, which have showers and kitchens, and have been used as student accommodation, would ensure that they are not “rewarded” by being relocated to better accommodation.

Dutch newspaper the Parool pointed out that in the 19th century troublemakers were moved to villages in Drenthe and Overijssel, which rapidly became slums, but Boer insisted that the administration had learned from past mistakes and is not planning to house the antisocial together.

It would be more accurate to call them “scum houses” than scum villages, Boer said, “because we don’t want to put more than one of these families in the same area.”

After up to six months in the houses, scattered around the city, the tenants would be found permanent homes.

The city government anticipates moving about 10 families a year into the program, which starts next year.

The temporary dwellings would be heavily policed, but antisocial tenants would also have access to doctors, social workers and parole officers.

“They are taken care of, so the whole situation is not going to repeat at the new house they are in,” Boer said.

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