KLM today accepted under protest a settlement offered to it by the Public Prosecutor in Haarlem, to the effect that it would pay a single fine covering all infringements of Article 6 of the Aliens Act. The fine in question is in excess of NLG 10 million.
The infringements in question almost exclusively (85 percent) involved transit passengers who did have the necessary documentation for their final destination, but did not have a transit visa for transfer at Schiphol Airport. Officially, such passengers should be in possession of an Airport Transit Visa A. Under current Dutch law, the authorities are in position to impose heavy fines on KLM for transporting passengers who do not have this visa.
The purpose of this law is to restrict the influx of asylum-seekers into the Netherlands. In practice, however, it has become clear that the actual risk presented by transit passengers is minimal. This has been acknowledged by the Dutch government and has even been laid down in a covenant, signed in April 2000 by former Justice Secretary J. Cohen and KLM Managing Director & COO C. van Woudenberg, stating that fines would no longer be imposed for transit infringements, although they would remain punishable by law.
KLM deeply regrets the formal standpoint now adopted by the Public Prosecutor, which is in conflict with previous pledges made by high-ranking judicial officials, to the effect that earlier infringements would be settled with the spirit of the covenant in mind.
Although the covenant has done away with fines for infringements of this kind, KLM is still faced with the threat of legal action and high fines. As a result, KLM has been forced to accept this exorbitant settlement. In short, the Public Prosecutor has chosen to wholly ignore the covenant between KLM and the government.
KLM finds the ongoing threat of such fines unacceptable, and holds that it is principally unjust that, as a carrier, it should be fined for matters that are essentially government responsibility.
Moreover, this situation also severely undermines KLM’s competitive position, because regulations of this kind are non-existent or less strictly imposed in neighboring countries. KLM will therefore do everything in its power to bring about amendment of the Aliens Act with regard to this category of transit passengers, who play no part in the asylum-seekers issue.