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Dutch MP welcomes Syrians to the Netherlands in Arabic

Kuza welcomes Syrian refugees to the Netherlands [Denk]

Date of publication: 22 December, 2016

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A Dutch MP welcomed Syrian refugees to the Netherlands in a short Arabic-language speech at the Dutch parliament on Wednesday.

A Dutch MP on Wednesday gave a short Arabic-language speech at the Dutch parliament welcoming Syrian refugees to the Netherlands.

"We support your call for freedom, justice and security. We will not forget you, and you shall remain in our hearts," Tunahan Kuzu said in Arabic on Wednesday.

"Your pain is our pain, your grief is our grief, and your conflict is our conflict."

Concluding his speech and addressing Syrians in his country, Kuzu said, "Welcome to the Netherlands."

According to the national statistics office, the number of Syrian refugees registered with Dutch local authorities rose from 15,000 to 64,000 between the beginning of 2014 and September 2016.

Asylum seekers who are given a residency permit and have lived in the Netherlands for more than six months are allowed to register with their local council as an official resident.

Most live in Amsterdam (1,400), followed by Rotterdam and Utrecht. Of the nearly 50,000 people who have registered since 2014, between 7,000 and 9,000 still live in official refugee centres.

Kuzu, who co-founded the new multi-ethnic pro-immigration party Denk ["Think"] in 2014, has been known for his pro-Arab stances on several occasions.

In September, a video emerged of the Turkish-born MP wearing a Palestinian flag pin refusing to shake hands with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu before a meeting at the Dutch parliament in The Hague.

He explained later that he intended the gesture as a sign that many in the Netherlands object to the abuse of Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military rule in the occupied territories.

Kuzu was also one of a few MPs who vehemently fought against a draft legislation to ban the Islamic full-face burqa from some public places such as schools and hospitals.

He said last month after 132 Dutch MPs in the 150-seat house voted in favour of the legislation that freedom of expression allowed people "to be who they are and dress how they want".

"It is reprehensible to exclude these women and isolate them because of a subject anxiety among certain citizens," he said at the time.

Growing anti-immigrant sentiment

Kuzu may receive wide criticism over his Arabic-language message to Syrian refugees on Wednesday, as the country is witnessing a growing anti-immigrants and anti-Islam sentiments.

Firebrand politician Geert Wilders of the anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) is leading opinion polls ahead of March elections, despite being convicted of discrimination and hate speech earlier this month over comments he made about Moroccans living in the country.

According to a survey published by the Maurice de Hond Institute before Wilders' trial began on 31 October, his party was predicted to win 27 of 150 seats in the lower house of Dutch parliament.

However, after his conviction was announced, this figure had risen to 34 seats, which would make the PVV the largest single political group in the Dutch parliament, according to the survey.

Wilders was found guilty of insulting and inciting discrimination against Moroccans on 9 December in a case related to an incident in 2014 when the controversial far-right Dutch MP, in front of television cameras, led chants calling for "fewer" Moroccans in the country during a rally in The Hague.

He has previously called for mosques to be closed, Qurans to be confiscated and for Muslim migrants to be barred from entrance into the country.

Currently Wilders' PVV hold 12 seats in parliament with polls saying as many as 3 million Dutch voters could back the party in March.

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