June 21. 2024. 2:31

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Dutch cabinet in favour of relaxing visa rules for earthquake victims

The Labour Party’s request to relax visa policy for Turkish and Syrian earthquake victims, is something the cabinet can get behind, Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on WNL’s Sunday broadcast.

The Labour Party (PvdA) wants the government to relax visa rules for Turkish and Syrian victims of the earthquake to ensure they can temporarily travel to stay with their family members in the Netherlands.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Turkey and neighbouring Syria early on 6 February, toppling entire apartment blocks, wrecking hospitals, and leaving thousands more people injured or homeless. More than 34,000 people have lost their lives with the final figure expected to climb as search and rescue teams continue their work.

“Many Dutch people have relatives in Turkey and Syria who have been severely affected by the earthquake. PvdA asks the cabinet to relax visa policy so that people can be temporarily accommodated with relatives in the Netherlands,” tweeted PvdA MP Kati Piri on Saturday.

Referring to PvdA’s request and mentioning Germany and Belgium currently relaxing their visa policies to assist earthquake victims, the government said it wants to know exactly what measures Germany and Belgium have implemented before they decided to do so.

It is “an illusion” to think that the problems caused by the earthquake could be solved in a few weeks or months (since a visa is only valid for three months), he said.

“It will take years to rebuild the country,” he added.

On Saturday, the Defence Ministry’s C-130 Hercules transport aircraft performed its first two medical evacuation flights in Turkey.

“The C-130 Hercules is now fully deployable in Turkey. The first injured were taken to hospitals yesterday. The hold of the transport aircraft has been converted into an infirmary so that medical aid can have passage in the air,” tweeted Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

The European Commission and Swedish EU Council presidency will host a Donors’ Conference in March for the people of Turkey and Syria. A similar conference was held in 2020 following an earthquake that hit central Albanian in November 2019, killing 51 people and leaving thousands homeless.

(Sofia Stuart Leeson | EURACTIV.com)