GP Short Notes # 738, 10 July 2023
The Netherlands: The government has collapsed. Why now, and What next?
On 10 July, Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced his exit from politics after the next election, following the government collapse over immigrant regulation.
On 07 July, Rutte announced his resignation after the unsuccessful rounds of negotiation over asylum policy. His conservative People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) party has been attempting to reduce the inflow of asylum seekers to 200 per month since the issue over overcrowding of migration centres sparked in 2022. Whereas his coalition parties, Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Christian Union, and the D66, opposed the move leading to the collapse of the government coalition. Rutte said: "All parties went to great lengths to find a solution, but the differences on migration are unfortunately impossible to bridge." Since 2022, the number of asylum application had increased one-third (47,000), and as per government reports, 70,000 are expected to apply in 2023.
What is the two-tier asylum system proposed by the VVD?
The VVD party’s demand to create a “two-tier” system for asylum seekers was agreed, but the consensus broke over “family re-unification.”
The two-tier system proposed the creation of two classes of asylum seekers. A temporary one to include those people escaping from conflict zones, who can return when the conflict is over. Next is a permanent one for people fleeing from trial (death list or sexual orientation). Apart from this categorisation, the VVD also aims to bring down the number of migrants in Netherlands’ by restricting the family members who can join the asylum seekers. This includes limiting the number of children of war refugees in Netherlands’ and adds a waiting period of two years for the family to re-unite. This was aimed at tapering the asylum policy by VVD and CDA.
Immigration: Why it is an issue now?
This is not a new issue. The concern over migration has been present for long time in Netherlands.
According to the statistics from the Immigration & Naturalisation Service (IND) of the Netherlands, most of the resident permit application had come from India, China, the US, and Turkey. The count decreased during COVID-19 and then increased by 2021. It also reported a massive hike in the number of application for Dutch citizenship, increasing from 43,660 in 2020 to 59,680 in 2021. These were majorly from Syria, Eritrea, and India.
To address the increasing immigration and the issue of inadequate shelters, the Dutch government took measures to limit the influx. It ruled that families of “permit holders,” who do not have an accommodation will not be allowed to travel. At the same time, it ordered the municipalities to create shelters for the existing asylum seekers with “residence permit.” If the permit holder is not allotted a residence by 15 months, will still be given a visa, the waiting period was viewed to help the “Immigration and Naturalization Service” to screen the permit applications.
According to Saskia Bonjour, a political scientist at the University of Amsterdam stated that the move was illegal as per European Directive as the longer the children of the immigrant families stay apart the more harmful it is. Stating the similar reason, the Rutte’s coalition parties withdrew their support.
What next after the collapse?
Similar to other European leaders such as Spain’s far-right Vox party, Sweden Democrats, France’s Marine Le Pen, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Italy’s Prime Minister Georgia Melonia, Rutte took the anti-immigration stance.
The collapse the government means new elections which is likely to take place in November, until which Rutte will head the caretaker government. Rutte being the longest served prime minister faces the fallouts of the broken coalition, but this is not the first time. In 2021, the cabinet resigned over failure of the government to guard people from tax inspectors and in time has earned the anger of farmers over announcement of reducing nitrogen pollution. Now, with the crack over migration policy, Rutte still stands a chance as the coalition partners CDI and Christian Union do not have enough support to become a majority, while opposition party “Farmer-Citizen Movement” still needs a big leap to push from second place to win VVD.
In terms of the migration policy, the VVD will have to let go of the new measures to tighten the immigrant influx until there is support.
Claire Moses, “What You Need to Know About the Dutch Government Collapse,” The New York Times, 08 July 2023
Claire Moses and Dan Bilefsky, “Dutch Government Collapses Over Plan to Further Limit Immigration,” The New York Times, 07 July 2023
“Netherlands: Rising immigration and new government initiatives,” European Commission, 25 September 2022
“Cabinet agrees on limiting the influx of asylum seekers, putting the brakes on family reunification,” nos.nl, 26 August 2022
Peter Rodrigues, and Job Cohen, “Two status system in asylum policy is a divisive issue,” universiteitleiden.n, 17 May 2023