After all the fuss, Hirsi Ali to keep Dutch citizenship

AMSTERDAM — Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk has informed parliament that Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali is to keep her Dutch passport.

This follows an agreement reached by senior Cabinet ministers during a meeting in the Hague apartment of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende late on Monday. Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm (Finance), the first to leave the meeting, told journalists he had “good hope” Hirsi Ali’s case could be finalised this week.

Zalm was leader of the Liberal Party (VVD) when he recruited the Somali critic of Islam to run for election for the party. She told him at the time that she had given a false name – Ayaan Hirsi Ali – to get asylum in the Netherlands in 1992. She was naturalised under this name five years later.

Her real name was Ayaan Hirsi Magan, but the world now knows her as Hirsi Ali. The latter was the name of her grandfather.

Opposition MPs want to debate on Wednesday as the issue.

Verdonk, who was campaigning to become leader of the VVD in May, caused consternation in parliament and abroad when she informed Hirsi Ali that she had six weeks to explain why she should not be stripped of her Dutch passport.

This followed a short investigation by ministry officials into Hirsi Ali after a documentary looked again at the fact she had used a partially made up story to get asylum.

Hirsi Ali gave a press conference the next day to announce her resignation as an MP for the VVD. She also said she was accelerating her plans to relocate to the US to take up a job with a neo-conservative think tank.

Prior to this, Hirsi Ali was a staunch ally of Verdonk and her restrictive immigration policies. The foreign media blasted the Netherlands for what was seen as an attempt to silence a person who had faced death threats for her criticism of fundamentalist Islam.

Parliament passed motions calling on Verdonk to ensure Hirsi Ali remained a Dutch citizen, no matter what.

Verdonk is using the letter to explain her about-face in Hirsi Ali’s case. The reasoning is that under Somali law a person is entitled to use a grandfather’s name.

The Minister’s letter will be studied closely by MPs who still have not forgiven Verdonk for causing the crisis in the first place.

Left-wing groups will scrutinise it to see if it affords an opportunity for at least 60 other people stripped of their Dutch nationality for giving a false name during the asylum process.

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