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Why are you feeding those headscarves

8 November 2008 - Anti-poverty organisations in Amsterdam are fed up with the populist rhetoric of politicians like Ahmed Marcouch and with the false solidarity of the Froger family. Yesterday, the Alliance for a Fair Amsterdam (ARA) held its first conference.

One of the speakers was Mirjam Pool, who wrote a book on poverty based on fieldwork in Almelo. "Arriving back in Amsterdam, I always had to take a deep breath to leave the misery behind me", she said. "Its sad to see children growing up in that world, without any opportunities".

The people she met with elicited not only compassion, but sometimes irritation and despondency as well. She described a person who always blames others for his problems rather than solving them. "Its difficult to draw the line between helplessness and unwillingness".

Paul Scheerder, who runs a food bank frequented mainly by Moroccan families, says he gets comments like 'why are you feeding all those headscarves?'

Quite a few people at the ARA conference were annoyed with politicians Ahmed Aboutaleb and Ahmed Marcouch (PvdA). Both of Moroccan descent, they would have tried to surpass right-wing populist Geert Wilders in Moroccan-bashing at another conference on Thursday.

Poor families should tell their teenage kids to find a job, rather than go after 'free handouts', Marcouch had said. "Hands have been created to work, not beg".

Abdellah Tallal of the ARA pointed out that jobs often do not pay enough to lift families out of poverty. "Here in the Bos en Lommer District, there are many people who have to support their families with a cleaning job paying just 1,100 to 1,200 euro per month", he said.

Tallal was annoyed at the Frogers, a showbizz family who did a reality show in which they lived on social assistance for one month. "Those millionaires are supposed to show us what poverty is. They're saying: what are these people complaining about, we're having a lot of fun".

The ARA, founded in November 2007, is a coalition of organisations of welfare recipients, churches, trade unions and other organisations that fight for justice and equal opportunities. Ideas raised at the conference include introducing a basic income, using the financial rescue funds to fight poverty, re-introducing real student scholarships and raising the poverty issue during election campaigns.

ARA. Image: food bank in Noord (Photo Leefkringhuis / Hilco Koke)


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