Senate refugee vote “a problem”, says far-right leader Wilders

Caroline van der Plas and Geert Wilders arrive at the talks. Photo: Sem van der Wal ANP

The surprise decision by VVD senators to back legislation to ensure all local councils take in their fair share of refugees is “a problem”, far-right leader Geert Wilders said ahead of Wednesday’s coalition formation talks.

All four party leaders involved in the current talks are opposed to the legislation and VVD leader Dilan Yesilgöz went as far as to try to get parliament to ask the senate not to debate it before a new coalition was finalised.

But on Tuesday night, VVD senators said they would support the measure after all, so as not to “leave the mayors, the king’s commissioners, Ter Apel, the COA refugee settlement agency and the IND immigration service in the lurch.”

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Wilders said the adoption of the legislation by the senate is “a problem” but declined to say more. That problem would now be talked about, he said.

Yesilgöz told reporters she would rather have seen agreements on reducing refugee numbers before the bill was passed. And that, she said, is why the VVD opposed the measure in the lower house of parliament.

Nevertheless, VVD senators have the right to make their own decision, she said. In addition, she said, her aim in the coalition talks is to reduce the number of new arrivals coming to the Netherlands.

RTL commentator Fons Lambie said the yes vote is a setback for the four parties currently in talks on forming a new coalition.

“Of course, the senate can take its own decisions, but on a crucial vote like this, VVD senators have gone against the VVD leadership and that illustrates how divided the party is,” he said.

Research published by broadcaster RTL Nieuws on Tuesday showed that almost half of the Netherlands’ 342 local authority areas have not provided any accommodation for refugees over the past 12 years.

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