Dutch government led by Mark Rutte collapses over immigration disagreements

Prime Minister announces resignation, triggering new elections later this year

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks to the press after the collapse of his government. EPA
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The Dutch government led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte has collapsed following disagreements over immigration.

A deadlock in the ruling coalition over the contentious issue has led to the immediate resignation of Mr Rutte – the longest-serving prime minister in the nation's history – and the calling of a general election later this year.

Mr Rutte and his government will continue in a caretaker capacity until a new ruling coalition is elected.

“It is no secret that the coalition partners have very different views on migration policy,” Mr Rutte said, announcing his resignation. “And today, unfortunately, we have to draw the conclusion that those differences are irreconcilable.

“That is why I will immediately … offer the resignation of the entire cabinet to the king in writing.”

The crisis emerged from Mr Rutte's conservative VVD party's push to limit the flow of asylum seekers to the Netherlands, which was opposed by two of the four-party government coalition.

Despite lengthy meetings in an attempt to reconcile the differing views within the coalition, no agreement was reached on the policy.

This latest disagreement was triggered by Mr Rutte's proposal to limit the entrance of war refugees' children who are already in the Netherlands and to delay family reunions by at least two years.

The proposal was deemed unacceptable by the Christian Union and liberal D66, leading to the coalition's collapse.

Opposition politicians across the spectrum, from Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Party for Freedom, to Green Left leader Jesse Klaver, have called for fresh elections.

The coming election is expected to take place in a highly polarised and fragmented political landscape, with 20 parties in the 150-seat lower house.

The migration issue has been a significant point of tension in the Netherlands and across Europe.

In the Netherlands, Mr Rutte's coalition had been attempting to hash out a deal to reduce the flow of new migrants into the country of nearly 18 million people.

In 2022, a little more than 21,500 people from outside Europe sought asylum in the Netherlands, and tens of thousands more migrated for work or study, putting a strain on already scarce housing resources.

Mr Rutte had sought to promote EU efforts to slow migration to the 27-nation bloc, and visited Tunisia last month with his Italian counterpart and the president of the EU's executive commission to offer more than €1 billion in financial aid to help stabilise the country's economy and curb migration from its shores to Europe.

Following the collapse of the government, the caretaker administration will remain in place until a new government is formed after the elections, a process that may take months due to the complexity of the Dutch political landscape.

The national elections committee, cited by the news agency ANP, stated that elections would not be held before mid-November.

Updated: July 07, 2023, 10:09 PM