Dutch U-turn over passport for Somali-born MP

The Somali-born Dutch MP and critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is to be allowed to keep her passport and nationality despite falsifying her asylum application 14 years ago.

Six weeks after announcing plans to strip Ms Hirsi Ali of her citizenship, an international outcry forced the country's hardline Immigration Minister, Rita Verdonk, to reverse the decision, which had split the Netherlands.

To make matters worse, Ms Hirsi Ali's neighbours sought to have her evicted from her home, complaining about the inconvenience caused by the security needed to guarantee her safety.

Once a devout Muslim, Ms Hirsi Ali lives under 24-hour guard after a death threat against her was pinned to the chest of her ally, the film-maker Theo Van Gogh after he was murdered in 2004.

The former MP was an outspoken critic of fundamentalist Islam and worked with Van Gogh on the film Submission, which featured veiled women with texts from the Koran written on their flesh.

The passport controversy burst into life after a television documentary publicised the fact that Ms Hirsi Ali falsified information on her asylum application in 1992. Fleeing to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage, Ms Hirsi Ali gave a false name and birthday - a fact she had acknowledged publicly before accepting a parliamentary seat. The naturalisation process was completed in 1997 and Ms Hirsi Ali became a member of parliament in 2002.

Ms Verdonk's attempt to remove her citizenship caused uproar in parliament, prompting criticism even from political allies. In the storm that followed, Ms Hirsi Ali quit parliament and tearfully announced plans to speed up a planned emigration to the US to take up a job at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute think-tank. But the foreign media criticised the Netherlands for its failure to support a woman who had faced death threats for her criticism of fundamentalist Islam.

The Netherlands parliament also passed motions calling on Ms Verdonk to ensure that Ms Hirsi Ali remained a Dutch citizen, whatever the nature of her misdemeanour.

The minister paid a direct price, failing in her attempt to win the leadership of the VVD Liberal Party, despite being the favourite.

Yesterday, in a letter to the Parliament, Ms Verdonk found a figleaf to cover her change of heart, arguing that it had been legitimate for Ms Hirsi Ali to use her grandfather's name rather than her father's name, Hirsi Magen. She said: "Taking everything into consideration, I have reached the conclusion that the naturalisation decision of 1997 identifies Ayaan Hirsi Ali sufficiently and thus she did indeed correctly receive Dutch citizenship. Had it not been for the investigation I carried out, the facts that were decisive in reaching this conclusion would not have come to light."

Ms Hirsi Ali, 36, said she regretted admitting lying since the name she adopted was legitimate. She said: "The name Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the name that I was permitted to use according to Somalian law and custom and which may therefore serve as the basis for the official registration of my name in the Netherlands."

The minister's letter may not be the end of the matter as Ms Verdonk's many critics will seek to exploit her political difficulties. Left-wing politicians want to know if the ruling could affect the cases of at least 60 others stripped of their nationality for giving a false name during the asylum process.

Yesterday's announcement followed a cabinet meeting in The Hague late on Monday. Gerrit Zalm, the Deputy Prime Minister and an ally of Ms Hirsi Ali, said he had "good hope" that the case could be finalised. Mr Zalm was leader of the VVD when Ms Hirsi Ali was recruited to run for parliament. She told him at the time that she had given a false name to get asylum in the Netherlands in 1992.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future