Dutch Government Collapses Over Immigration Policy

Dutch Government Collapses Over Immigration Policy
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks at a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron (not pictured) in Amsterdam on April 12, 2023. (Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters, File Photo)

AMSTERDAM—The Dutch government collapsed on July 7 after failing to reach a deal on restricting immigration, which will trigger new elections in the fall.

The crisis was triggered by a push by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party to limit the flow of illegal immigrants to the Netherlands, which two of his four-party government coalition refused to support.

“It’s no secret that the coalition partners have differing opinions about immigration policy. Today we unfortunately have to conclude that those differences have become insurmountable. Therefore, I will tender the resignation of the entire cabinet to the king,” Mr. Rutte said during a televised news conference.

Tensions came to a head last week, when Mr. Rutte demanded support for a proposal to limit the entrance of children of war refugees who are already in the Netherlands and to make families wait at least two years before they can be reunited.

The proposal went too far for the small Christian Union and liberal D66, triggering a stalemate.

Mr. Rutte’s coalition will stay on as a caretaker government until a new administration is formed after the elections, a process that usually takes months in the fractured Dutch political landscape.

The elections won’t be held before mid-November, the ANP news agency reported, citing the national elections committee.

A caretaker government can’t decide on new policies, but Mr. Rutte said the situation wouldn’t affect the country’s support for Ukraine.

The Netherlands already has one of Europe’s toughest immigration policies, but under pressure from some parties, Mr. Rutte had for months been trying to seek ways to further reduce the inflow of illegal immigrants.

Asylum applications in the Netherlands jumped by a third last year to more than 46,000, and the government has projected they could increase to more than 70,000 this year—topping the previous high of 2015.

That will again put a strain on the country’s asylum facilities, where for months last year, hundreds of refugees at a time were forced to sleep in the rough with little or no access to drinking water, sanitary facilities, or health care.

Mr. Rutte last year said he felt “ashamed” of the problems, after the humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres sent a team to the Netherlands for the first time ever, to assist with the illegal immigrants’ medical needs at the site for processing asylum requests.

He promised to improve conditions at the facilities, mainly by reducing the number of illegal immigrants that reach the Netherlands. But he failed to win the backing of coalition partners who felt his policies went too far.

Mr. Rutte, 56, is the longest-serving government leader in Dutch history and the most senior in the European Union after Hungary’s Viktor Orban. He’s expected to lead his VVD party again in the next elections.

Mr. Rutte’s current coalition, which came to power in January 2022, was his fourth consecutive administration since he became prime minister in October 2010.