Voters urge Dutch coalition parties to take in more refugees

A picture of Antonie Fountain on Twitter (13 Sept.), showing the signatures under the letter: “This is what 1349 names look like”.

Coalition parties in the Netherlands are coming under pressure from their own supporters to revamp Dutch refugee policy. The fire on the ninth of September at Moria refugee camp in Greece has sparked a wave of public support for more openness to migrants.

Since then, the coalition has agreed to bringing one hundred refugees from Moria to the Netherlands, but the initiators of the letter and party members are not satisfied. “This is absurd”, Antonie Fountain, one of the initiators and political lobby/advocacy worker for human rights, says. “There are over 12000 people in this camp and The Netherlands have only agreed to taking in one hundred. There were even more people than that in the church listening to the troonrede [government policy for the next year] yesterday.”

The fire that destroyed the refugee camp on Lesbos was the motivation for the petition, but the discussion on refugee policies has been going on amongst the four coalition parties for some time, with VVD taking the negative stance towards taking in refugees, CDA being divided, and D66 and ChristenUnie being more receptive.

Fountain: “But last week’s decision to take in just one hundred refugees just shows weak decision making skills. A disaster as big as the one in Moria should have been a turning point in the policy making, but still nothing is happening.”

Because of Prinsjesdag, the political parties in the coalition were not available to comment. In a Facebook post regarding the matter, political leader Gert-Jan Segers said: “Whether this should have been a breaking point for the coalition, depends on people’s personal opinion. The current agreement means that we will at least help some people. Ending the coalition would have meant we could not even do that.”

In a five-year agreement with the UN, the Netherlands has promised to take in 500 refugees each year. The one hundred refugees brought from Moria as a result of the fire will be taken in as an advance on the refugee count in 2021, bringing down the number of people that can seek asylum following the regular procedure.

Segers: “While we [ChristenUnie] received complaints about taking too small a measure, the VVD was being scolded by [newspaper] Telegraaf and [political parties] PVV and FvD for agreeing to too big a compromise. We did what we could in such a divided political landscape.”

Because the decision was officially made already by the coalition, normally this would be the end of discussion. “But this response from the voters on such a large scale is not normal, it shows that people want change”, Fountain says. “We are not satisfied with the government’s decision, and we are not done until the policy has been changed.”  

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