At last – compensation for all asbestos victims

10 November 2006

At last – compensation for all asbestos victims

Christian Democrat Environment Secretary Pieter Van Geel announced today that 'non-work-related' victims of asbestos would henceforth be entitled to the same advances against eventual compensation payments as have for some time been available to occupational victims. The announcement means that demands contained in a motion put forward by SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen will be met, despite the resolution's rejection at the time of its proposal. Reacting to the news, Ms Van Velzen expressed the hope that Mr Van Geel would now bring the Eternit company, which is responsible for most of these victims, to book.

Krista van Velzen“I have been asking for a very long time for these advanced payments to be extended to environmental victims of asbestos, but the Secretary of State's reply was that this would open the floodgates," said Ms Van Velzen. "This was absurd, because the relationship between asbestos in roads and paths and the development of mesothelioma has been scientifically demonstrated. My motion to pay compensation to these victims was rejected by the combined votes of Mr Van Geel's Christian Democrats, the (right wing, market liberal) VVD and the small Christian parties, but fortunately despite this the Secretary of State has now come round to our point of view.”

Early compensation payments are made in recognition of the sad fact that many sufferers from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma do not live to see the final settlement of their claim for damages against the firms responsible. For victims who have contracted their illness as a result of their employment such payments are already available through the existing compensation system.

“This is very good news," Van Velzen said, "primarily for the victims from the area around Goor and Harderwijk where in the past roads and yards were paved with asbestos. However, there remains a need for decontamination in a number of parts of the country and we should also be recovering the costs of this damage from the asbestos producers Eternit. The Secretary of State has still not said what he will do about this.”

Van Geel has, in the last four years, not appeared to be prepared to force Eternit to face its social responsibilities and pay up. Nevertheless, the government's proposed new compensation system is another step in the direction of a just end to the tragedy of asbestos.

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