A visit to Egypt by the Dutch parliament’s foreign affairs committee has been canceled because lawmaker Raymond de Roon from anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) was refused a visa after accusing Cairo of “the ethnic cleansing” of minority Christians.
The committee was due to travel to Egypt Friday, November 11, for a weekend working visit.
Raymond De Roon said Tuesday, November 8, he was refused a visa because Egypt’s government “don’t like the fact I described as ethnic cleansing the way 95,000 Christians have been driven out of the country since March 2011.”
The parliamentarian also said that “the murder” of Coptic Christians was “silent genocide”. Last month, at least 25 Copts were killed and over 300 wounded by security forces during a peaceful protest against the destruction of a church, witnesses said. There have also been reports of other attacks against Christians.
PVV leader Geert Wilders called Cairo’s refusal to grant De Roon a visa a “scandal”. “It shows the new Egyptian regime is as barbaric as the previous one,” he said, referring to President Hosni Mubarak who was ousted this year after weeks of protests.
“It would be more fitting for [Foreign Minister] Rosenthal if he signed a letter of protest,” Wilders added after the Dutch minister summoned the Egyptian ambassador to explain the visa refusal.
Egyptian officials had no further comment.
It was not immediately clear what, if any, impact the diplomatic stand-off will have on a planned visit to Egypt by Peter van Dalen, who represents the Dutch ‘ChristenUnie’ (ChristianUnion) party in the European Parliament and Dutch parliamentarian Joël Voordewind.
Both men plan to attend next month’s parliamentary elections in Egypt, although its transitional military rulers refused to allow European observers to monitor the ballot.
Van Dalen told BosNewsLife that they want to see “whether the elections are taking place freely and whether the rights of Copts and other minorities are respected.”
Within the Dutch opposition there are mixed reactions to the committee’s decision not to visit Egypt.
Opposition D66 democrat leader Alexander Pechtold said that “if one [parliamentarian] isn’t allowed in, then none of us are going.” However Socialist Party legislator Harry Bommel warned that legislators “face the risk of not being welcome in Muslim countries anymore because of the PVV’s public criticism of Islam.”
PVV support for most legislative measures is key to the survival of the Netherlands’ minority government led by Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte.