Refugee row: first the deal, then the details

It is still unclear exactly who – and how many –  will fall under the temporary deportation stop on long-term asylum seekers, say refugee groups. MPs yesterday agreed to back the cabinet’s decision to stop deporting certain groups of refugees on humanitarian grounds, pending the formation of a new government.

Justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin, who has taken over responsibility for asylum seekers from Rita Verdonk, told parliament yesterday afternoon that the policy was not without risk. ‘It is a decision with risks attached – but it is a responsible decision,’ he said.
The amnesty covers people who arrived in the Netherlands before April 2001, when the asylum rules were changed. Around 26,000 people were originally in this group. Of those, around 10,000 have, after all, been given residency permits; 4,900 have returned home; and 8,000 have disappeared out of the system.
Some reports say the original 26,000 could have swelled in number to almost 40,000. Opponents of the deportation stop say other failed refugees may also be tempted to claim the right to stay on humanitarian grounds.
Meanwhile, an online opinion poll by Maurice de Hond showed that support for both the ruling Christian Democrats and opposition Labour Party had been hurt by the row – while the Socialists and anti-immigration PVV had benefited.
Only one third of those polled backed the cabinet compromise and 63% thought Rita Verdonk should have resigned.

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