The Dutch government collapsed on Friday after parties in its ruling coalition failed to reach an agreement on migration policy, underscoring how the issue of asylum seekers in Europe continues to divide governments in entire continent.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, overseeing his fourth cabinet and one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, told reporters on Friday that he would submit his resignation to the king.
“It’s no secret that the coalition partners have very different views on migration policy,” Mr Rutte told reporters in The Hague on Friday. “And now, unfortunately, we have to draw the conclusion that those differences are irreconcilable.”
The disintegration of the government prompts new general elections in the autumn, and a caretaker government led by Mr Rutte will remain in place until then.
For months, the parties in the coalition government have struggled to reach an agreement on migration, debating the terms of family reunification and whether to create two classes of asylum: a temporary one for people fleeing in conflicts, and a permanent one for people fleeing persecution. .
Dutch news organizations reported that Mr. Rutte to limit the entry of children of war refugees already in the Netherlands and to make families wait at least two years before reuniting them. Mr. Rutte denied those reports, according to Dutch broadcaster NOS.
But arguments over migration policy continue to divide the Dutch government, which already has stricter immigration policies than some other EU countries. This week, two parties in the ruling coalition, the Christian Union and the centrist D66, decided they could not reconcile with Mr. Rutte’s party, leading to a government crisis.
“One of the values that is important in the proposals is that children grow up with their parents,” said a statement from the Christian Union party. “As a family party, that’s what we stand for.” The party said it wants to work with “heart and soul for a humane and effective migration policy.”
Migration has proved an intractable issue for many voters and political parties in Europe, fueling the popularity of nationalist and right-wing parties across the continent, and leading to sharp criticism from rights activists over how the migrants are governments. Last year, the Dutch aid agencies fought to help hundreds of asylum seekers who are living in a makeshift camp outside an overcrowded reception center, in what aid workers describe as deplorable conditions.
Last year, more than 21,000 people from outside the European Union sought asylum in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch government. More than 400,000 people immigrated to the Netherlands overall in 2022, the office said, an increase from the previous year.
The large number of arrivals strained the Netherlands’ already strained housing capacity a deficiency for more than 17 million people of the country.
The ruling parties of the Dutch government have met repeatedly in recent days to try to find unity, and Mr. Rutte met on Friday for his own talks.
“We talked for a long time, we’re coming here tonight because we didn’t succeed,” the defense minister, Kajsa Ollongren, told reporters as she walked into the cabinet meeting, according to The Associated Press.
“Everyone wants to find an efficient, effective solution that also does justice to the fact that it is about human life,” finance minister Sigrid Kaag, a member of the D66 party, said before the start of the conversation.
Over the past decade, as thousands of people have sought asylum in the European Union from Africa and the Middle East, far-right parties opposed to immigration have gained popularity in the 27-member bloc. In some countries, their success has pushed center- and right-wing parties to take a step further to the right on immigration and asylum policy.
In June, Spain’s far-right Vox party did better than expected in regional elections, and last fall, the Sweden Democrats, a party with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, won by 20.5 percent of the vote in Sweden, becoming the second largest party in Parliament.
In France, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has long held an anti-immigration stance, reached the final round of last year’s presidential election. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has clung to power in part by cracking down on immigration.
And last year, Italy elected a hard-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni, whose long record of criticizing immigration and the European Union has raised concerns about the country’s reliability in the Western alliance.
Supported by Mr. Rutte, the European Union’s efforts to limit migration, visited Tunisia last month with Ms. Meloni and a top EU leader, Ursula Von der Leyen. In a joint statementleaders said the European Union would provide 100 million euros, or about $109 million, to Tunisia for “border management” and search-and-rescue and anti-smuggling efforts.
The last time Mr. resigned. Rutte and his cabinet are in 2021 because of a report that shows his government’s systematic failure to protect thousands of families from overzealous tax inspectors. But Mr. Rutte weathered that crisis, re-emerging as leader of the Netherlands after nine months of negotiations in December.