Dutch residents objecting to refugees want pavement removed

No footpath will mean asylum seekers cannot walk past when refugee centre opens

A refugee centre at the former De Koepel prison. Residents of Beuningen town want the footpath outside their homes removed so asylum-seekers cannot walk past. Photograph: Dmitry Kostyukov/The New York Times

A refugee centre at the former De Koepel prison. Residents of Beuningen town want the footpath outside their homes removed so asylum-seekers cannot walk past. Photograph: Dmitry Kostyukov/The New York Times

 

Residents of a well-heeled street in a rural Dutch village have asked their local authority to dig up and remove the footpath outside their homes – so asylum seekers won’t be able to walk past when a new refugee centre opens nearby in the autumn.

The householders of Koningstraat – King’s Street – on the outskirts of the commuter village of Beuningen say theirs will be the most direct route from the refugee accommodation to the village shops, and they will have a constant stream of migrants passing.

The refugee centre is earmarked for a greenfield site between Beuningen and the neighbouring village of Ewijk. It is expected to house about 300 arrivals, mainly families, the majority fleeing Syria.

Route to shops

However, in a letter to the local authority, the residents of Koningstraat say they’ve been advised their properties will be significantly devalued if their street becomes the preferred route for refugees doing their daily shopping.

They say they’ve been told houses placed on the market are likely to be much more difficult to sell and are likely to fetch much less – bad news in a market that has just started to recover from the 2007 crash and the debt crisis.

As a result they’ve asked the authority to agree in principle to reduce the property tax on their homes – in line with a reduced valuation yet to be determined.

Unsafe for pedestrians

The only practical option they can see, the letter tells local councillors, is to remove the footpath outside their houses that the refugees would use to get to the shops.

Only one side of the street has a footpath. The other has picturesque little bridges emerging from the houses directly on to the roadway. So, the result of removing the footpath would be that the street would become unsafe for pedestrians, and the refugees would be forced to look for an alternative route – thus solving the problem, say the residents.

Beuningen local authority, however, has turned down the residents’ suggestion, saying the footpath is “part of the local infrastructure” and they see no valid reason to interfere with it.

Local authorities in several towns and villages have been forced to abandon plans for refugee centres due to local opposition. There have been protests and rioting outside meetings, and threats to council members and their families.