The Netherlands’ tough immigration policy is set to get even tougher now that the government has approved a raft of measures proposed by Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers. But are the plans really that drastic or are they mainly designed to placate Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party?
The move hardly comes as surprise. A tougher immigration policy was one of the key issues the minority cabinet of the conservative VVD and the Christian Democrats included in its agreement with Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in exchange for its support in parliament. It makes perfect sense, therefore, that the tougher policy has been approved just before Budget Day, when the government badly needs the Freedom Party’s support to push through its budget cuts.
The tough policies send a clear message to those who don’t respect the rules of the game, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte:
“Of course the Netherlands will continue to welcome refugees who really need our protection. Unfortunately, however, there are also people who abuse our hospitality. We have to crack down on that. We are therefore adopting tougher measures against criminal aliens, and staying illegally in this country is going to be an offence. Those who do not respect our rules will no longer be welcome and will have to leave. That is the clear message these measures send.”
Bart Toemen, a lawyer specialised in migration law, says Minister Leers’ plans are “a lot of empty talk” and are likely to founder because they breach European rules and jurisprudence.
As an example, Toemen cites the decision to make it a crime to stay in the Netherlands illegally, punishable by four months in prison and a fine of 3,800 euros. The measure, Toemen says, violates a recent verdict by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The plan to speed up the deportation of aliens who commit a crime, Toemen warns, is not likely to stand either.
“The moment an alien commits a crime but lacks the required documents to be repatriated, you simply can’t expel him or her. This is something every minister promises when they discuss immigration policy: ‘now we are going to send them back even faster.’ But that requires the countries they come from to cooperate, and often they don’t.”
Another media gimmick, Mr Toemen says, is Mr Leers’ proposal to scrap the statute of limitation for aliens. That means that even 20 years after arriving here someone can still be expelled. “By then, however, most of these people will already have Dutch nationality, so you can’t expel them. Such decisions, moreover, involve many more factors, including a great deal of European jurisprudence.”
The only measure that could come into effect, Toemen suspects, is limiting family immigration, which means only children and partners will be allowed in.
“Leers’ plan really goes for the minimum contemplated by European rules. But I wonder if even this measure will be upheld by the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court clearly states that whenever a parent and an adult child have a bond that goes beyond that of a normal, emotional one, family reunions must be allowed. Nor is it clear what the minister intends to do with adult handicapped children. Is he going to say parents should leave them behind?”
The new immigration laws must still be debated in parliament.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide