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7 Jul, 2023 23:59

Dutch government collapses over migration

The tenuous ruling coalition failed to agree on how to handle asylum seekers and refugees
Dutch government collapses over migration

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands submitted his resignation to the Dutch king, Willem-Alexander, on Friday, after the four-party ruling coalition he headed failed to reach common ground on migration policy. A caretaker cabinet will hold office until a new general election.

“Migration is a major political and social issue,” Rutte told reporters in The Hague on Friday evening. “Now that we have been unable to find agreement on this, we have collectively assessed that the political support under the coalition has disappeared.”

The four coalition members have “very different views on migration policy,” he added. “And today, unfortunately, we have to draw the conclusion that those differences are irreconcilable.”

King Willem-Alexander has been notified of the government's resignation. Rutte will stay on as the caretaker PM until a new general election, which will probably take place in November.

The main bone of contention at Friday’s coalition meeting was the proposal to limit the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the country of 18 million, which is already facing a housing shortage. Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Christian Democrats wanted to limit the number of relatives who could follow asylum seekers already in the country at 200 per year, and create a separate category for war refugees and those fleeing political persecution. The other two partners, D66 and the Christian Union, opposed “breaking up families.”

The Netherlands received 46,000 asylum applications in 2022, with the government projecting it might see as many as 70,000 this year, more than the previous high recorded in 2015. The country has also taken in around 95,000 Ukrainians under “temporary protection” until March 2025. 

Rutte has been prime minister since October 2010, as part of four different ruling coalitions. The most recent was put together in January 2022, after the longest negotiations in Dutch political history. The four-party bloc ended up with just 77 seats in the 150-member parliament.

“Quick elections now,” Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, tweeted after Rutte’s announcement. The Green Left leader, Jesse Klaver, also called for a new parliament, telling the public broadcaster NOS that the country “needs a change of direction.”