Fresh tensions erupt over migrants in Holland

A demonstration by the anti-Islamic movement Pegida and its supporters in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Sunday. Ten people were arrested after a smoke bomb was thrown and scuffles flared between Pegida supporters and those demonstrating against the group,
A demonstration by the anti-Islamic movement Pegida and its supporters in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Sunday. Ten people were arrested after a smoke bomb was thrown and scuffles flared between Pegida supporters and those demonstrating against the group, Dutch media reported. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

THE HAGUE • New tensions have flared in the Netherlands over the sensitive issue of taking in migrants only hours after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sharply condemned a "cowardly" attack on a refugee shelter.

Police were forced to intervene in the central city of Utrecht on Sunday when hundreds joined a rally organised by the far-right German Pegida movement, short for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident".

Ten people were arrested after a smoke bomb was thrown and scuffles flared between Pegida supporters and those demonstrating against the group, Dutch media reported.

Tensions are rising in the Netherlands over the thousands of refugees due to be given shelter in the country under a European Union (EU) scheme.

Dutch police are also investigating a Friday night attack by men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas on a sports hall in the central city of Woerden where some 150 refugees, including 51 children, are temporarily housed.

No one was hurt in the incident, but police were on Sunday still questioning 11 men aged between 19 and 30 who allegedly tried to storm the building, attacking it with fireworks and pelting it with eggs.

"This cowardly action is totally unacceptable," Prime Minister Rutte said on his Facebook page, after visiting the group last Saturday who he said had been very "shocked" by the incident. Those behind the attack would be severely dealt with, he said.

Over the next two years, the Netherlands will take in more than 7,000 people as EU nations share out the migrants flooding into the continent, mainly from Syria and Iraq, in Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Last week, an angry crowd in the tiny village of Oranje tried to block the car of Deputy Justice Minister Klaas Dijkhoff after he revealed that the small hamlet was having to house some 1,200 refugees, twice the number initially planned.

A woman was injured and hospitalised after she threw herself against Mr Dijkhoff's car.

Some local mayors have reacted angrily at the government plans for temporarily housing refugees in their villages, saying they were being "overruled" by the ministers based in The Hague.

A poll published on Sunday in the De Telegraaf newspaper showed that the Freedom Party of firebrand far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders appears to be shooting up the polls amid the refugee crisis.

His party won 15 seats in the last elections in 2012. But according to the daily De Telegraaf, if elections were held today his party could snatch as many as 35 seats in the 150-seat Lower House.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2015, with the headline 'Fresh tensions erupt over migrants in Holland'. Print Edition | Subscribe