The Dutch government resigns after failing to reach an agreement on asylum procedures

The resignation of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, means the country will face a general election later this year. Rutte and his cabinet will remain in office on an interim basis until a new governing coalition is chosen.

The Dutch government collapsed on Friday over irreconcilable differences within the four-party coalition over how to rein in immigration, a divisive issue that has divided countries across Europe.

The resignation of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, means the country will face a general election later this year. Rutte and his cabinet will remain in office on an interim basis until a new governing coalition is chosen.

“It is no secret that the coalition partners have very different views on migration policy,” Rutte told reporters in The Hague. And today, unfortunately, we have to conclude that these differences are irreconcilable. That is why I shall at once submit… to present in writing the resignation of the entire Government to the King.”

Opposition MPs wasted no time in calling for new elections even before Rutte officially confirmed his resignation.

“Quick elections now,” tweeted Gert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Freedom Party. Across the political spectrum, Green Left leader Jesse Claver has also called for elections and told Dutch broadcaster NOS: “This country needs a change of direction.”

Rota presided over late-night meetings on Wednesday and Thursday that did not produce an agreement on immigration policy. In one of the final rounds of talks on Friday evening, the parties decided unanimously that they could not agree and, as a consequence, could not remain together in the coalition.

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The decision highlighted ideological divisions that have existed since the day the coalition was sworn in just over 18 months ago between parties that do not support tough immigration suppression – D66 and the centrist Cristinoni, or Christian Union – and parties that favor tougher action. Conservative Rutte People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Christian Democrats.

Similar debates are playing out across political divides elsewhere in Europe as migrants fleeing conflict or looking for a better life make sea crossings from North Africa to reach the continent. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the devastating war in Ukraine.

Immigration is set to be a central topic for next year’s EU parliamentary elections, but the issue came up early in the Netherlands, a country long torn between welcoming international outreach and increasing resistance to foreign influences.

The Rutte alliance has been trying for months to reach an agreement to stem the flow of new immigrants arriving in the country of about 18 million people. The proposals reportedly included creating two categories of asylum – a temporary one for people fleeing conflict and a permanent one for people trying to flee persecution – and reducing the number of family members allowed to join asylum seekers in the Netherlands.

Last year, hundreds of asylum seekers were forced to sleep outside in squalid conditions near an overcrowded reception center as the number of people arriving in the Netherlands outnumbered the available beds. Dutch aid agencies provided assistance.

Just over 21,500 people from outside Europe sought asylum in the Netherlands in 2022, according to the country’s statistics office. Tens of thousands more have moved to the Netherlands to work and study.

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The numbers put pressure on housing, which was already in short supply in the densely populated country.

Rutte’s government has worked for a law that could force municipalities to provide accommodation for newly arrived asylum seekers, but the legislation has yet to pass through both houses of parliament.

The prime minister also boosted EU efforts to slow migration to the 27-nation bloc. Rutti visited Tunisia last month with his Italian counterpart and the head of the European Union’s executive committee to offer more than one billion euros in financial aid to save the tottering economy in the North African country and stop migration from its shores to Europe.

Rutte’s coalition government, the fourth he has led, took power in January 2022 after the longest coalition negotiations in Dutch political history.

Elections for the lower house of the Dutch parliament later this year take place in a polarized and divided political landscape – there are 20 parties in the 150-seat lower house.

During the provincial elections earlier this year, a pro-farmer populist party put Rutte’s party in second place. The defeat was seen as a potential catalyst for Root to try his best to hold his coalition together until his term ends in 2025.

The coalition has been trying for months to reach an agreement to stem the flow of new migrants arriving in the country of about 18 million people. The proposals reportedly include creating two categories of asylum – a temporary one for people fleeing conflict and a permanent one for people trying to escape persecution – and reducing the number of family members allowed to join asylum seekers in the Netherlands.

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“We have been working on this for a long time, and all the information is on the table. We have to look together to see if we can achieve something,” said Justice Minister Dylan Yeshelgos-Zygerios, a member of Rutte’s party, before the latest round of talks.

Just over 21,500 people from outside Europe sought asylum in the Netherlands in 2022, according to the country’s statistics office. Tens of thousands more have moved to the Netherlands to work and study.

The numbers put pressure on housing, which was already in short supply in the densely populated country.

Rutte’s government has worked for a law that could force municipalities to provide accommodation for newly arrived asylum seekers, but the legislation has yet to pass through both houses of Parliament.

The prime minister also boosted EU efforts to slow migration to the 27-nation bloc. Rutti visited Tunisia last month with his Italian counterpart and the head of the European Union’s executive committee to offer more than one billion euros in financial aid to save the tottering economy in the North African country and stop migration from its shores to Europe.

Rutte’s coalition government, the fourth he has led, took power in January 2022 after the longest coalition negotiations in Dutch political history.

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