Dutch reprieve for Angolan teen

2011-11-09 10:26
Amsterdam - An Angolan teenager, who has come to symbolise the struggle facing asylum-seekers in the Netherlands, was granted a temporary reprieve by the Dutch parliament allowing him to stay in the country, Dutch media reported on Tuesday.

In a parliamentary debate, legislators granted Mauro Manuel, 18, permission to remain in the Netherlands on a student visa.

The Netherlands has long been regarded as among the more generous countries in welcoming asylum-seekers and immigrants.

But the Dutch have become deeply divided over the issues of race and immigration in the past decade, reflecting concerns over the large number of Muslim immigrants and their willingness to integrate into Dutch society, particularly at a time of slower economic growth and rising unemployment.

Manuel - who left Angola when he was 10 years old, lived with a Dutch foster family in the south of the country, and learned to speak fluent Dutch - became a cause célèbre after he made an impassioned speech to parliament in October.

Tougher stance

"Against my will I have become a symbol for all young, unaccompanied asylum seekers in the Netherlands," he said in a statement to parliament. "I would rather be a symbol of integration into Dutch society."

"I promise I will always try to be an asset to the Netherlands. Please let me stay here forever. My future is in the Netherlands. I would like to be an example to others and work for Dutch society all my life."

Manuel is one of dozens of young asylum-seekers who came to the Netherlands as children and who now face deportation as the country takes a tougher stance on immigration, thanks to the influence of the populist politician Geert Wilders.

Wilders, who heads the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Freedom Party, has a pact with the minority coalition government. In return for tougher policies on immigration and asylum-seekers, the Freedom Party generally supports the government to give it a majority in parliament.

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