Dutch approve partial ban on burqa wearing in public

The Hague: Dutch senators overwhelmingly approved a bill Tuesday to ban the Islamic full-face burqa from some public places such as schools and hospitals, ending years of discussion on a hot-button issue.

“The Senate has agreed with the bill,” the upper house of parliament said in a statement on its website.

“The bill proposes a legal ban on wearing clothing that completely covers the face or only shows the eyes, in educational institutions, on public transport, in government institutions and hospitals,” it said.

The bill was approved by 44 to 31 votes in the 75-seat Senate and is the final hurdle before it becomes law.

It was supported by three of the four political parties in Prime Minister Mark Rutte ruling coalition, apart from the progressive D66 party which voted against.

Dutch Internal Affairs Minister Kajsa Ollongren — who is herself a D66 member — will now talk to government bodies such the police about how to implement the ban which carries a fine of some 400 euros ($466).

The Dutch cabinet approved the plan in mid-2015 but then decided not to go as far as banning burqas on the country’s streets.

Dutch approval follows similar bans imposed in Austria, Belgium, France and Germany and comes amid rising tensions in Europe with Islamic communities.

France was the first European country to ban the full-face veil in public spaces in April 2011.

The European Court of Human Rights upheld that burqa ban in 2014, rejecting arguments that outlawing full-face veils breached religious freedom.

The law has resulted in some 1,600 arrests since it came into force and violations can result in fines of up to 150 euros.