Compensation for asbestos victims: Now it's time to tackle the culprits

13 February 2006

Compensation for asbestos victims: Now it's time to tackle the culprits

Today Christian Democrat Secretary of State for the Environment Peter Van Geel announced that he was prepared to offer non-work related victims of asbestos a pre-payment against eventual compensation for damages. Work-related victims have enjoyed such a right for some time, in recognition of the tragic fact that many die before there has been time for full legal proceedings to be completed. The move to offer the same right to victims whose exposure did not occur in the workplace – such as people in the region of Goor, where paths and farmyards were routinely paved with waste from asbestos factories – was first proposed in a recent parliamentary resolution put forward by SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen. her motion was in fact rejected, but Mr Van Geel's announcement shows that the government has nevertheless taken it up. Ms Van Velzen hopes that the minister will now take on Eternit.

Commenting on the minister's announcement, Van Velzen said, “Two months ago I asked whether the rule offering a pre-payment could be broadened to environmental victims of asbestos, but the Secretary of State said that this would risk opening the floodgates. This was a rather bewildering answer, because the relationship between asbestos in roads and paths, and the onset of mesothelioma, has been demonstrated. A motion which I proposed to go some way towards compensating these victims was rejected by the governing Christian Democrats(CDA) and Liberals (VVD) with the support of the small Christian parties. Fortunately Van Geel has now nevertheless changed his mind, and I am very pleased for the people who will be affected. It is now only to be hoped that the Secretary of State finishes the job and makes Eternit, the firm responsible for all this suffering, pay for the damage they have caused.”

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