Monday 23 September 2019

Prime minister firm on Dutch refugee plan, expects EU support

PERSCONFERENTIE MINISTERRAADMPs and ministers on Thursday took part in a bad-tempered debate about solving the current refugee crisis following the publication of the cabinet’s view on how to deal with refugees from Syria and Iraq.

Ministers said earlier this week Europe must develop a long-term policy in which only refugees who have first registered in areas close to war zones would be considered for settlement in an EU country.

In the short term, the cabinet will agreed with efforts by the European Commission to spread the flow of refugees into Greece, Hungary and Italy around Europe if there is enough support for the Dutch position, prime minister Mark Rutte said.

Rutte told parliament that refugees who settle in countries like Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan should be given more opportunities to work and that children should also attend school in the refugee camps.

Safe havens

By improving care in safe areas near war zones, refugees will not have to come to Europe, he said. The money which Europe can save on settling refugees can be reinvested in the safe havens.

Rutte also told MPs he expected that there would be sufficient backing for the Dutch plan to from other EU countries. If this is the case, the Netherlands will agree to take a further 7,000 refugees who have claimed asylum in Greece, Italy and Hungary, he said.

The Financieele Dagblad reported earlier on Thursday that European Commission officials consider the Dutch proposals to be unrealistic.

Some 95% of Syrian refugees are currently living in nearby countries.

Invasion

Earlier in the debate, Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration PVV drew fire from other MPs for describing the influx of refugees to Europe as an ‘Islamic invasion’ of ‘men with beards’ and said that all refugees who try to reach Europe are economic migrants.

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said Wilders ‘hot air’ had added nothing to debate in years. The way Wilders misused facts is ‘life-threatening’, Pechtold said.

The debate is set to continue into Thursday evening.

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