PM backs deportations amid growing unrest
3 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — Amid growing public and political dissatisfaction, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has confirmed his backing of government plans to deport 26,000 rejected asylum seekers, placing him at odds with his Christian Democrat (CDA) grassroots supporters.
The Cabinet recently granted a residence permit to about 2,300 asylum seekers in an amnesty designed to remove a backlog of cases in the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). However, a total of 26,000 refugees will be deported over a three-year period.
Besides heated public debate, the plan also sparked a dispute between government coalition parties, with Liberal VVD parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen accusing Balkenende of inadequately supporting government policy.
The VVD leader said at a party congress on Monday night that the CDA prime minister should more strongly back VVD Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, who has attracted sharp criticism for her deportation policy.
Speaking in Nieuwleusen, near Zwolle, Van Aartsen said Verdonk was only carrying out government policy, an NOS news report said.
He was particularly annoyed by CDA criticism of the deportation plan, pointing out the Christian Democrats also voted in favour of the scheme. Van Aartsen said criticism should not only be directed at the VVD.
But Balkenende told a CDA congress earlier on Monday night that the Cabinet would go ahead with the deportation policy without amendment. Such support is at odds with growing unrest among CDA grassroots members and the general public.
Speaking in Lelystad, near Almere, Balkenende urged his party to try to understand the deportation policy, saying it was a task the CDA had to carry out. “It is not easy but very necessary,” he said.
Many of the asylum seekers set to de deported have lived in the Netherlands for several years and have found jobs and raised families. Their local communities, churches and schools have strongly objected to their looming deportation.
But Balkenende said the same criteria should apply to an anonymous asylum seeker in a city suburb or a refugee shelter as to a family in “village Y or that girl at school X”, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
Despite the prime minister’s speech, the CDA party council is expected to meet again in the coming week when various departments are set to make an ultimate appeal on Christian Democrat MPs to allow more “distressing” refugees to remain in the Netherlands.
The Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, will then discuss the deportation policy on Monday 9 February, provided that Minister Verdonk has recovered from a recent illness.
After unveiling her amnesty and deportation policy, the minister was admitted to a hospital in The Hague last week, complaining of feeling unwell. She was released later in the week.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news