Compromise on asylum seekers, no resignations

After a crisis meeting of almost 12 hours, a compromise has been found to solve the stalemate between the cabinet and MPs over the question of long-term asylum seekers. Despite Tuesday’s censure motion against her, the hard line immigration minister Rita Verdonk is to remain in the cabinet. And long-term asylum seekers with children will not be deported.

Verdonk will, however, hand over her asylum portfolio to justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin.
Verdonk told the media that she does not want to take responsibility for the compromise reached between her Liberal (VVD) party and its coalition partner, the Christian Democrats.
The CDA and VVD currently form a minority caretaker government following November’s election.
After what many political insiders described as a contentious meeting between CDA and VVD ministers which went on until midnight, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said his party was prepared to go some way to meet the wishes of parliament.
The cabinet will suspend the deportation of asylum seekers who have been in the country for over five years if there are humanitarian grounds for doing so. This would apply in particular to families with children, he told MPs.
The VVD ministers remain opposed to the compromise but said they would not resign ‘for the sake of the country’. Their withdrawal from the government would lead to a new crisis and further political instability.
Gerrit Zalm the VVD deputy prime minister said his ministers had decided to remain in the cabinet ‘with pain in their hearts’ and called it a ‘black day’.
MPs passed a motion of censure against Verdonk on Tuesday after she said she would resume deporting failed asylum seekers, against the wishes of a parliamentary majority.
Balkenende and Hirsch Ballin are due to debate the cabinet’s compromise with parliament later this morning.

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