Posted on May 17, 2006

Dutch MP to Quit Amid Asylum Row

BBC News, May 16, 2006

Controversial Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali has said she will resign after admitting she lied on her asylum application.

Ms Hirsi Ali said she would quit after the country’s immigration minister withdrew her Dutch citizenship.

A fierce critic of conservative Islam, Ms Hirsi Ali rose to prominence in 2004 after her film-maker colleague Theo van Gogh was killed by a Muslim extremist.

She has since had police protection, amid threats from Islamic extremists.

Ms Hirsi Ali wrote the script for Van Gogh’s TV film Submission, which angered many Muslims.

‘Saddened but relieved’

Ms Hirsi Ali announced her decision at a news conference in The Hague.

“Today I resign as a member of parliament,” she was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

“I will leave the Netherlands, saddened but also relieved. I will pack my bags. I will go on.”

Ms Hirsi Ali came under pressure to resign after a Dutch television programme last week broadcast details of her falsified 1992 asylum application.

In the documentary, Ms Hirsi Ali said that when she arrived in the Netherlands she had come straight from Somalia, whereas actually she had lived in three different countries in the interim.

Ms Hirsi Ali said she had already admitted lying to win asylum in the Netherlands when she was vetted as a candidate for parliament in 2002

The MP came under fresh pressure last month after a Dutch court ruled that she must leave her home in The Hague because neighbours felt she was a security risk.

Citizenship annulled

Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Monday that in the light of the programme and other facts, the MP’s citizenship was unlikely to be valid.

Ms Verdonk — like Ms Hirsi Ali a member of the centre-right VVD party — withdrew Ms Hirsi Ali’s Dutch citizenship on Tuesday.

“It is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection,” Hirsi Ali was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.

“It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live. All that is difficult but not impossible. It has become impossible since last [Monday] night.”

Dutch media has reported that Ms Hirsi Ali will go to work for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, in Washington.

The Netherlands’ immigration minister on Wednesday came under pressure from parliament to justify her decision to strip a high-profile critic of Islam of her Dutch citizenship.

Rita Verdonk bowed to MPs’ demands to reconsider her action on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who plans to move to the US after admitting that she lied in her Dutch asylum application.

Ms Verdonk, known as “Iron Rita” for her tough stance on immigration, said she would consider a new citizenship request by Ms Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch politician who received death threats for her criticism of Islam.

Ms Hirsi Ali quit her seat in the Dutch parliament on Tuesday and said that she would leave the Netherlands.

She has been offered a post at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based neoconservative think-tank with close ties to the Bush administration.

The affair has triggered widespread debate in the Netherlands. The mood varies between support for Ms Verdonk’s hardline immigration policy and criticism of her for the decision on Ms Ali, who some people see as a champion of free speech.

A poll on Tuesday showed the Dutch were divided on whether Ms Verdonk was right to strip Ms Hirsi Ali of citizenship, with 49 per cent in favour and 43 per cent against, Reuters reported.

Ms Hirsi Ali, who was raised as a Muslim, lives under police guard after receiving threats from radical Islamists, including the murderer of film director Theo van Gogh.

She gained worldwide notoriety after working with Van Gogh on the film Submission, which criticised Islam’s treatment of women

Ms Hirsi Ali admitted that she had lied about her age and name when she came to Netherlands in 1992 but said she did so to stop her family finding her after she fled an arranged marriage in Canada.