Labour leader Diederik Samsom will not implement a vote condemning government moves to make living in the Netherlands without proper papers a criminal offence, he told the party’s conference in Leeuwarden.
In his speech, Samsom said he could not listen to party members, who earlier passed a motion condemning the draft legislation.
If he did, it could have an impact on other agreements made with the VVD to soften strategy on dealing with foreigners, he said. The PvdA and VVD form the current government.
But more than that, Samsom said, he had given his word to the VVD on the new law. ‘I cannot meet your wishes and break my promise,’ he said. ‘But I will fight day after day for what we all want – a tough but fair policy towards foreigners, focused on treating vulnerable people in a human fashion.’
Labour party members earlier on Saturday voted by a large majority in favour of a motion condemning the government’s plans to make being an illegal immigrant a criminal offence, opening up a potential conflict with the party’s leadership.
The motion’s backer, Sander Terphuis, was given a standing ovation for his speech.
The motion also called on party leader Diederik Samsom and Labour MPs to do all they can to ensure the bill does not become law.
Terphuis fled to the Netherlands from Iran in the 1990s and spent several months living at a secret address without papers. ‘You do not compromise when it comes to people,’ said Terphuis, who changed his name when he took Dutch nationality.
RTL political commentator Roel Schreinemachers said the vote is ‘painful’ for the party leadership. Labour and the right-wing VVD agreed to make illegal immigration a crime in their coalition agreement last year.
A number of senior party figures, including former aid minister Jan Pronk, Hedy d’Ancona and Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen, are among those who have signed a petition calling on Samsom to break open the coalition agreement and scrap this section.