Parliamentarians seem to share the opinion that the Marechaussee were too soft when they backed off after irate passengers on board a flight at Schiphol refused to cooperate. Acting on an anonymous tip of a gun on board, the armed troops stormed the Suriname Airways flight upon its arrival, but found nothing. The operation held up the already delayed flight for another three hours and after irate passengers protested, the officers backed off and the rest of the search was called off.
In two sets of questions posed to the Ministers of National Security, Justice and Defense on Tuesday February 26th, parliamentarians Van der Steur (VVD), De Roon and Bontes (PVV) asked “why the search was called off, what the directives are in case passengers protest the control, what the results of the search were by the time the search was called off, whether people who could be drug couriers were targeted, and how it would be prevented that protesting passengers influence the process of 100 percent controls.”
In Suriname however, it is considered excessive that an anonymous tip of a gun prompted the Marechaussee to storm the flight and hold up passengers and crew for close to four hours. SLM President Gerard Brunings was quoted on local newswebsite Starnieuws: “We’re not against security controls, but they went overboard with this. Not even a bomb search takes four hours. The search was carried out by the Royal Marechaussee, so we want an explanation from the Dutch Government.” He said he wondered if each anonymous tip would prompt such an excessive search. The incident was also discussed in Suriname’s Council of Ministers and the Foreign Ministry will reportedly officially demand an explanation from the Dutch Government.
Flights from key countries in the Caribbean, among which Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean, are subjected to 100% control upon their arrival at Schiphol. These controls, prompted by an increase of drug finds, are carried out by customs.
In 2010, Dutch Government lost a court case against a Dutchman who upon his return from a Suriname vacation refused to answer Customs questions or undergo the 100 percent search; he was subsequently arrested. The Court ruled that no passenger arriving in the Netherlands from Suriname or the Antilles may be subjected to 100 % drugs controls, unless there are strong suspicions that the passenger in question is carrying drugs. It also said that having sniffer dogs approach arriving passengers should be bound by strict rules.
Government appealed the verdict, but the case was thrown out by the High Court, who stressed though that this verdict said nothing about the lawfulness of the 100 percent controls at the airport. “The question whether drug controls may be carried out on passengers of selected flights is a different one than whether a customs office has the right to order a passenger to give information,” the High Court said in its ruling of July 2012.
Thus it seems that the insistent drug controls are carried out in a grey area.
HUXX is Marvin Hokstam, a Caribbean journalist who is rapidly going from reluctant to carefully amazed by Amsterdam