The Dutch government is at risk of collapsing over a dispute on how to deal with the rising number of asylum seekers in the country. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party has proposed to tighten the rules for family reunification and to limit the entry of children of refugees who are already in the Netherlands. However, two of his coalition partners, the progressive D66 and the Christian Union, have rejected the plan, saying it violates human rights and international obligations.
The four-party coalition, which has a slim majority in parliament, has been holding crisis talks since Thursday night, but no agreement has been reached yet. Rutte has reportedly threatened to resign if his demands are not met, while some of his allies have accused him of using the issue as a pretext to trigger early elections.
The Netherlands has seen a surge in asylum applications in recent years, reaching over 46,000 in 2022 and is expected to surpass 70,000 in 2023. This has put a strain on the country’s asylum facilities, where many refugees have faced poor living conditions and lack of access to basic services. Rutte has said he feels “ashamed” of the situation and has vowed to reduce the influx of migrants by implementing stricter policies.
However, his coalition partners have argued that his proposals are too harsh and would harm vulnerable people who are fleeing war and persecution. They have also pointed out that the Netherlands has a legal and moral duty to respect the right to family life and to protect the best interests of children.
The immigration issue has divided public opinion in the Netherlands, where anti-immigration sentiment has grown in recent years. Rutte’s VVD party is leading in the polls, while the far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders is also gaining support. On the other hand, some civil society groups and human rights organizations have criticized the government’s approach and have called for more solidarity and compassion towards refugees.
The coalition crisis comes at a critical time for the Netherlands, which is facing several challenges post Covid-19 pandemic economic recovery, and the climate change agenda. The current government was formed in 2017 after months of negotiations following a fragmented election result. The next general election is scheduled for March 2025, unless the government falls before then.