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article imageDutch FM under fire over Suriname 'failed state' quip

By AFP     Jul 19, 2018 in World

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok is under fire for controversial remarks over immigrants and labelling former colony Suriname "a failed state", which may cost him his job, Dutch media said Thursday.

Blok could be left fighting to hold onto his post after parliament's summer holidays for saying, according to the television programme Zembla, that he didn't know of any examples of multi-ethnic nations where people of different cultures live together peacefully.

The programme managed to get hold of videoed remarks Blok made at a private meeting of international organisations last week in which he dubbed the tiny, impoverished South American nation of Suriname, sandwiched between Brazil and French Guyana, a "failed state" with serious problems "over ethnic divisions".

Just as the thorny issue of immigration threatens to divide the European Union, Blok said even if eastern European nations such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic do open their doors to take more people, migrants "won't have a life there" and they'll "just be beaten up".

Such difficulties in promoting understanding between people with different geographical and ethnic backgrounds likely lie deep in mankind's genetic makeup, he said.

Amid a furore over his comments even among his own party, Blok apologised in a letter Wednesday for causing any offence with his "sharp words" in what he said was an attempt to "stimulate an open debate."

The veteran politician, a member of the Liberal VVD party, has only been in post since March, taking over after his predecessor Halbe Zijlstra stepped down amid a furore for lying.

Blok admitted he had used "unfortunate words" and said "I regret any offence caused."

He added he had not meant that Suriname was a failed state in the accepted international definition of the phrase, more that there was a "weakness in the political system" where politics was divided along ethnic lines.

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