Taking more migrants only temporary fix, says Netherlands

Dutch government plans to cut off food and shelter for those whose applications are refused

A volunteer sorts donated clothes and items at the Emergency Shelter for Refugees in the America hall in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. The country is expected to take in 9,000 migrants and refugees. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/AFP/Getty Images

A volunteer sorts donated clothes and items at the Emergency Shelter for Refugees in the America hall in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. The country is expected to take in 9,000 migrants and refugees. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Netherlands is willing in principle to accept a share of the migrants and regufees arriving in Europe, but only as a “temporary solution”, the government said on Tuesday.

In the long term, it said, what was needed was to set up better shelters for refugees near conflict zones, and it would donate €110 million this year to improve capacity in and near Syria.

European Union governments are divided in their response to the continent’s biggest refugee crisis since the second World War, as hundreds of thousands of people flee nations like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prime minister Mark Rutte’s coalition nearly split in April over asylum policy. The government plans to toughen its stance by cutting off food and shelter after a few weeks for those whose claims for refugee status are turned down.

Mr Rutte’s conservative VVD party competes for votes with the anti-immigration Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders, which is ahead in opinion polls.

The government’s statement on Tuesday did not say how many more refugees it was willing to take.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to publish a proposal on Wednesday for distributing 160,000 asylum seekers among EU members, of which the Dutch share is expected to be just over 9,000, in a country of 17 million.

The Dutch parliament is due to debate asylum policy on Thursday. A poll released this week showed that 54 percent of voters were opposed to accepting more refugees than the country had already agreed to take.

The government said there must be a European agreement on the appropriate quotas, and that asylum seekers must “be registered directly” upon their entry into Europe.

Mr Wilders said the government’s position would lead to “thousands of extra asylum seekers in the Netherlands.”

Providing shelter near war zones will “only work with closed borders and border controls, otherwise people will keep coming, often for free room and board”, he said. Reuters