Thousands Riot in Small Dutch Town over Plan for Asylum-Seeker Centre

Guardian, December 16, 2015

Dutch police have fired warning shots in an effort to disperse a crowd, as a protest against plans to house asylum seekers in a small town turned into a riot.

Police in Geldermalsen, near Utrecht, said via their official Twitter account they had “so far made numerous arrests, it’s is not clear yet how many”. No serious injuries were reported.

Images and videos of the incident showed dozens of youths tearing down fences, throwing beer bottles and fireworks at police, and chanting slogans against the proposed centre for asylum-seekers.

According to national broadcaster NOS, around 2,000 people joined the protest in a town of 27,000.

A meeting of the town’s council to decide on whether to build the centre to house 1,500 asylum seekers had to be halted. A regional broadcaster showed footage of the meeting being evacuated by shouting policemen as rioters sought to force their way into the building.

Police said late on Wednesday the crowd had still not dispersed, and officers were sporadically being pelted with debris. They said the meeting would not resume and called on protesters to leave the town centre.

The incident was the biggest display of anti-migrant sentiment in the Netherlands since hooligans attacked a Syrian refugee centre in October.

The deputy justice minister, Klaas Dijkhoff, who oversees immigration and asylum policy, called the incident in Geldermalsen “un-Dutch”.

European countries are struggling to cope with the largest movement of migrants since second world war, many of them Syrians who have come via Turkey, Greece and the Balkans.

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