Divisions loom within Labour about making illegality a criminal offence

Divisions are emerging within the ruling Labour party (PvdA) about the coalition government’s plans to make it a criminal offence to be an illegal immigrant.

While Labour leader Diederik Samsom and VVD chief Halbe Zijlstra both reaffirmed plans to make illegality an offence on Wednesday morning, dissident Labour MPs are planning to make an issue of the plan at this weekend’s party congress.

Local parties from Amsterdam, The Hague, Tilburg and Eindhoven have submitted a motion calling on Labour MPs not to back the coalition’s position.

Painful

Samsom told reporters he expects the Leeuwarden conference will lead to ‘a good debate on the social agreement but also on the more painful items in the coalition agreement’.

Nevertheless, the plan to make it illegal to stay in the Netherlands without proper papers will go ahead, he said, adding that it is important to ensure people who help illegal immigrants are not themselves punished by law.

However, junior justice minister Fred Teeven, who is in charge of immigration, said in an interview with Amnesty International magazine Wordt Vervolgd that helping people without papers will be a criminal offence in some cases.

For example, helping people who have been banned from re-entering the country would no longer be allowed, he said. However, the public prosecution department will not actively pursue people who do help, the minister is quoted as saying.

Fines

RTL news reported in December illegal immigrants will face a fine of up to €3,900 and eventual deportation when the legislation making illegality a crime comes into effect.

Teeven’s plans exclude ‘police hunts’ for illegal immigrants but people caught without valid papers during traffic checks will face fines and deportation, sources told RTL.

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