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International media: 'Collapse of Dutch Government Highlights Europe’s New Migration Politics’

The numbers of asylum seekers and the direct family members hoping to join them were not the problem, says Mark Klaassen. The stumbling block was the housing market. He says the asylum crisis is being used for electoral gain.

Interest from international media

The fall of the Rutte IV government made international headlines. The New York Times and BBC Radio 4 reached out to Mark Klaassen, Assistant Professor of Migration Law and Member of the Migration Advisory Council, for comments on the crisis in the Netherlands.

Numbers of asylum seekers negligible; goal is to win over voters

The New York Times places the fall of the Dutch government within the broader hardening of European migration politics. Until recently, the far-right parties predominantly took hardline migration positions while conservative parties were more inclined to compromise when it came to migration. The fact that Rutte was now no longer willing to compromise may well represent a turning point in politics, according to the newspaper. 

The VVD wanted to limit the arrival of family members of refugees with a ‘temporary status’. When the other governing parties did not agree, the cabinet fell.

According to the New York Times: ‘Critics say the tough stance of Mr. Rutte advocated would have had a limited impact even if it were enacted. The number of refugees in the Netherlands looking to have family members join them is so small, said Mark Klaassen, an assistant professor of immigration law at the Leiden University, that it would not make a meaningful dent in the total number of refugees. 

Mr. Klaassen said that Mr. Rutte, known as a consensus builder who had previously been unwilling to use migration politics to his own advantage, seemed to be changing his stance. “What is new is that with this development, migration law is being used to gain political advantage,” Mr. Klaassen added.‘

The housing market is the problem

The real stumbling block, according to Klaassen, is the lack of housing for asylum seekers. Klaassen told BBC Radio 4: ‘(....) because the problem that is there is not so much (...) the number of asylum seekers, but much more problems that are related to that. We have now a huge problem in asylum seekers that get refugee status that need to get their own house, but because of a shortage of houses in the market, they get stuck in asylum seeker reception centres. That means that there is not enough new places for newly arriving asylum seekers. So the system is halting, but the reason for that is not the asylum seekers. The reason for that is that there's problems on the housing market.’ 

Collapse of government bad news for asylum crisis

Mr. Klaassen said that Mr. Rutte’s migration woes were partly his own government’s making. Slow processing has worsened bottlenecks in the asylum process, Mr. Klaassen said. And the lack of affordable housing has led recognized refugees to overstay in processing centers because they struggle to find permanent homes, causing overcrowding and inhumane living conditions. 

More information

You can read the New York Times article or listen to the BBC Radio 4 radio broadcast (Klaassen's item is from 20 minutes).

Or read the Leiden Law Blog written by Klaassen. 

Banner image: Miikka Luotio via Unsplash.

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