Opposition MPs have demanded prime minister Mark Rutte explain rumours that Geert Wilders has tried to have immigration minister Gerd Leers sacked.
The Volkskrant reported on Wednesday morning that Leers is under fire from Wilders. The paper says during Monday’s government spending talks, Wilders urged the prime minister to replace Leers, saying his performance is weak and he has not made enough progress on European immigration issues.
Instead, immigration matters should be transferred to justice minister Ivo Opstelten or his deputy Fred Teeven, Wilders is reported to have said. Leers has been critical of Wilders in the past.
Wilders’ anti-immigration PVV has a formal alliance with the minority government and is currently involved in talks on finding an extra €9bn in new money and savings to reduce the budget deficit.
The Volkskrant said coalition sources confirmed Leers’ position was ‘under pressure’ on Monday. Wilders wanted him sacked as a sweetener to the PVV because of the concessions the party is being forced to make on economic reform.
Rutte and CDA leader Maxime Verhagen at first dismissed the demand but the minister’s weak performance in parliament on Tuesday has put Leers back in the spotlight, the paper says.
Leers is currently embroiled in a conflict with local mayors over deporting failed asylum seekers. He is also under fire for comments about deporting refugees who are found to have lied.
The comments about lying are widely regarded as having referred to the case of 18-year-old Angolan youth Manuel Mauro. He narrowly escaped deportation last summer when he was given a student visa. The teenager is said to have lied about his name and date of birth when he arrived in the Netherlands as an unaccompanied refugee at the age of 10.
Leers has since said he was not talking about Mauro, but the PVV is angry he did not state outright the boy should be deported after completing his vocational college course, the Volkskrant says.
Wilders agreed last year to support the government on economic policy in return for tighter immigration rules. Much of those plans depend on European legislation, and Leers has been unable to gather much support at an EU level for change, the paper points out.
Both Wilders and deputy prime minister Maxime Verhagen have denied the Volkskrant claims. Leers’ position had not been up for discussion for ‘a single second’, Wilders said, using the microblogging service Twitter.
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