'Local intelligence service does not cancel benefit'
20 July 2008 - Amsterdam has its own intelligence service which can in principle have someone's benefit cancelled, claims an article on the Indymedia website. Nonsense, says a municipality spokesperson, although there is an organisation that can recommend sanctions against radicalising youth.
In response to the murder of film maker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical in 2004, Amsterdam has created the IHH, an organisation that processes information about youth who may be 'radicalising' and ensures that this information is acted upon. The IHH gets its information from districts, schools and other sources.
The preferred strategy to deal with radicalising youth is to co-opt them. Interventions include training courses for professionals; involving imams; organising neighbourhood information meetings and offering radicalising youth work placements.
In addition to this preventative approach, the IHH can advise the mayor to take repressive measures. These may include 'disturbing' suspects by having the police follow them obtrusively and investigating whether subsidies have been obtained in a rightful manner.
According to one 'Rens', who posted a well-documented article on the issue on Indymedia, the IHH can also cancel the social assistance benefits of radicalising youth.
In a response, a municipality spokesperson says that there is no question of the IHH cancelling benefits, although she says she does not know the details of every single case handled by the IHH (the organisation handled 22 reports of radicalisation in 2007).
She also rejects suggestions that the IHH is some kind of secret service. What the organisation does is public, although this may not apply to some activities carried out in collaboration with national institutions.
In a report written for the Tilburg municipality, the COT consultancy says that some radicalising youth are not susceptible to a preventative approach. In these cases, the municipality may have to impose sanctions such as cancelling subsidies or benefits and preventing the use of public services.
"When developing such instruments, it makes sense to seek an alliance with initiatives of the Amsterdam and Rotterdam municipalities", the COT report ads. The spokesperson of the Amsterdam municipality says she has no idea what the COT is referring to. The COT did not respond to a request for clarification.
In any case, one may assume that the COT knows what it is talking about. The consultancy is frequently contracted by the Amsterdam municipality to consult on security issues. For example, it co-wrote a policy paper entitled 'Amsterdam against radicalisation' published by the municipality in 2007, which describes the role of the IHH among other things.
Spokespersons of Buro Jansen & Janssen (an independent watchdog that monitors the police and intelligence services) and the Bijstandsbond (an organisation of social assistance recipients) say they have no information suggesting that the IHH has had welfare recipients' benefits cut. However, they do point to examples suggesting that such measures are not entirely unthinkable.
For example, the government can impose sanctions on suspected terrorists who have not been (irrevocably) convicted. In 2006, the national government blocked the bank accounts of suspected members of the so-called Hofstadgroep, who have since been acquitted on appeal.
Also, the Amsterdam welfare agency has secretly collaborated with an intelligence service in the past. Five years ago, Edwin De Roy van Zuydewijn, then married to Princess Margarita, claimed that intelligence service BVD had passed information from his welfare agency file to the Royal Family.
Using information from his file, the BVD would have informed the Royal Family that De Roy van Zuydewijn had worked as a volunteer for a buddy project for aids patients.
Initially, the welfare agency denied even having a file on De Roy van Zuydewijn. Later, it became clear that this assertion had been a 'mistake' and that they had indeed allowed the BVD to search his file.
Indymedia, Volkskrant (both in Dutch). Image: woman wearing a niqab at the Hogeweg (photo Charles Roffey / Flickr)
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