Rotterdam to shut gates on asylum seekers

12th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

12 November 2003 , AMSTERDAM — Rotterdam has set itself on a collision course with the government as the council considers refusing to house new asylum seekers.

12 November 2003

AMSTERDAM — Rotterdam has set itself on a collision course with the government as the council considers refusing to house new asylum seekers.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk insists the port city is obliged by law — in common with all other municipalities in the Netherlands — to accommodate an allocated share of asylum seekers granted residency status.

Councillors in Rotterdam counter that it has already "done 20 times more than other comparable municipalities" when it comes to accommodating asylum seekers and refugees.

Jozias van Aartsen — the leader of the Liberal VVD faction in the Dutch parliament — has come out in support of Rotterdam and called on the Minister to see if the law needs to be changed to do away with the current quota system.

Many suburbs in Rotterdam have a majority of immigrant and non-Dutch residents and suffer from high employment and poverty. Statistics compiled by the city council suggest that immigrants will make up 70 percent of Rotterdam's population by 2017 if current threads continue.

Rotterdam was the springboard for anti-immigration campaigner Pim Fortuyn who took up the clarion call "the Netherlands is full" and made it an acceptable part of the political discourse in the traditionally liberal country.

His Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR) scored a major breakthrough in the local elections in March 2002 and entered into a coalition to run the city.

Fortuyn was gunned down and killed nine days before the general election on 15 May 2002, but his national LPF party went on to take 26 of 150 seats in Parliament.

The formation of the Immigration and Integration Ministry was part of its price for joining into a government coalition with the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD.

Immigration Minister Hilbrand Nawijn (LPF) set about tightening the entry rules for immigrants and asylum seekers and expelling illegal immigrants already living here.

The LPF star waned due to infighting which brought down the coalition. The CDA and VVD re-entered government with the Democrat D66 party after the general election in January 2003 but the Immigration Ministry remains in place.

The LR has also suffered from internal disunity and three councillors have left the party. But its tough stance on immigration and asylum seekers is broadly accepted in Rotterdam where even councillors for the opposition Labour PvdA party have backed calls to shut the city's gates to asylum seekers to battle the build up of "poverty districts".

In contrast, Verdonk — who took over at the Immigration Ministry from Nawijn — finds herself in the position of pleading the case for legal asylum seekers to be allowed to settle in Rotterdam.

Alderman Sjaak van der Tak, responsible for social integration in Rotterdam, has said that the city has done all it can, and should have to do, to house asylum seekers. He said no other city in the Netherlands had done as much.

And further escalating the row, Van der Tak said Rotterdam should have the right to refuse refugees who have turned down the offer of accommodation in another part of the country.

Rotterdam is obliged under the current system to accommodate 250 legal asylum seekers in 2004.

The city's local government is to publish a plan in December aimed at limiting the number of poor immigrants and refugees settling in Rotterdam.

The opposition PvdA published proposals on Monday to limit the number of non-Dutch people coming to live in the port city.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news

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