Netherlands to take in 100 people from Greek refugee camp
The Netherlands will take in 100 people from the burned down, overcrowded refugee camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, the government wrote in a letter to parliament on Thursday. The Dutch government will agree to take in 50 children and 50 "vulnerable" people if the Greek government asks them to, the Rutte III cabinet said after emergency consultations between coalition parties VVD, CDA, D66, and ChristenUnie, NU.nl reports.
The 100 people will be deducted from the already compulsory 500 asylum seekers the Netherlands will be taking in next year, the government said. That number was previously already reduced from 750 to 500, as a compromise for the children's pardon. Any family members who come to join the 100 refugees will also be deducted from the quota, the government said. In addition, the government wants to shorten the asylum procedure and punish people smuggling more harshly. And the cabinet wants to be able to refuse permanent residency permits for "criminal migrants".
Various politicians, churches, celebrities, WWII survivors and other people have been calling on the Dutch government for months to take in 500 unaccompanied children from the refugee camp. Coalition parties D66 and CDA also made no secret wanting to take in these kids. That call was renewed by the left-wing opposition on Wednesday, after a fire destroyed nearly the entire camp, leaving the 13 thousand people who had been living there with nowhere to go. The camp was intended to house only 3 thousand asylum seekers.
But the government always refused, despite the fact that a hundred Dutch municipalities said they were willing to take in these children. Instead the cabinet promised it would create a shelter in Greece for 150 unaccompanied minors. After the fire, State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol also said that the Netherlands wouldn't be taking any asylum seekers in. "The Netherlands has always taken the position that we do not take over people," she said.
The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, was supposed to debate the fire in camp Moria with Broekers-Knol and Minister Sigrid Kaag of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation on Thursday afternoon. But just before the debate was set to start, it became clear that the government was working on something behind the scenes. The debate was postponed.
GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver is not impressed by the deal. "We were really looking forward to breaking the impasse on refugee policy but his outcome is bitter. Exchanging one vulnerable group for another is not a deal," he said on Twitter.
PVV leader Geert Wilders is also upset. "VVD BENT THE KNEE AGAIN!" he said on Twitter. "From now on, setting relief camps on fire will be rewarded with a ticket to the Netherlands. It makes me sick."