Asylum policy causing division, in-fighting in Prime Minister Rutte’s VVD party
Two dozen Noord-Holland municipal factions of the VVD party demanded that national politicians adjust the government’s policy on asylum reception. The local politicians signed a letter calling on the party’s national political figures to stop the recently introduced process of forcing municipalities to accept asylum seekers. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Cabinet member responsible for asylum policy, State Secretary Eric van der Burg, are both members of the VVD, which is also the largest party in the two Houses of Parliament.
The government’s purchase of a hotel in Albergen, Overijssel to be used for the reception of asylum seekers angered some in the region. The facility will house anywhere from 150 to 300 asylum seekers in the village of 3,500 people. It was the first time the government introduced a new asylum reception facility without coming to an agreement with the municipality where it is located.
That has prompted hundreds of people to protest against the facility on a daily basis. They have used signs with slogans like, “Keep Albergen clean,” ‘What are you doing to our beautiful little village?“ and “Soon 10 percent immigrants, can we live here safely?” A peaceful march through the village on Sunday night drew many, including children, who waved upside-down Dutch flags, a symbol of the recent farmers protests.
"Our municipalities are cracking under the high intake figures," the local politicians wrote in their letter, according to De Telegraaf. "We have experienced that the current working methods of both the VVD parliamentary party and the Cabinet have drastically diminished the base of support for receiving asylum seekers."
Before obtaining the Albergen hotel, the Cabinet issued repeated warnings that asylum reception locations could be forcibly located in places that were not pulling their weight. The government has been trying to resolve the overcrowding issues at the main asylum facility in Ter Apel, where dozens of people without a place in the facility have frequently had to sleep outdoors.
The Albergen facility is being opened “against the will of the democratically elected municipality council, and thus crosses a border on principle," the VVD members wrote in their letter. The politicians said they do not at all support current party policy. “This crisis requires leadership,” they wrote in a statement apparently criticizing Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Van der Burg is due to visit the Tubbergen city council this week to discuss the issue. Albergen is part of that municipality.
Local VVD politicians have also taken issue with the way their party has handled nitrogen emissions policy. The current Cabinet’s stated target is to halve emissions by 2030, which has led not only to farmers protesting about what they believe is the arbitrary manner in which the government is handling the issue, but has also seemed to cause a rift within the Cabinet.
"We simply negotiated badly and gave too much to D66," said Peel en Maas VVD party chair Teun Heldens.