Dutch Plan Tougher Asylum Policy As Migrants Flood Europe

Migrants board a train to Serbia in the new reception center near the town of Gevgelija. (ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

As Europe grapples with its biggest wave of migration since World War Two, the Netherlands is about to toughen its asylum policy by cutting off food and shelter for people who fail to qualify as refugees.

Failed asylum seekers would be limited to “a few weeks'” shelter after being turned down, if they do not agree to return home. They would then either be deported or sent away to fend for themselves.

From November, the centre-right coalition of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, which competes for votes with the popular, anti-immigration party of Geert Wilders, wants to close 30 regional “bed, bath and bread” shelters where asylum seekers have been able till now to get help on the basis of need.

Under the plan, six national centres applying the stricter guidelines would provide only to people who agree to leave.

The proposal prompted a clash between Rutte’s ruling right-wing Liberals and their junior coalition partner, Labour, that nearly toppled the government in April.

On Friday, the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination added to outside criticism of the Dutch policy, saying basic needs of migrants should be provided unconditionally.

“As long as they are in the Netherlands, they have to enjoy minimum standards of living,” said Ion Diaconu, who helped write the U.N. report.

But Rutte responded on Friday that it would be “crazy” to offer permanent shelter to people who refused to leave. “We are talking about the group that can go back, whose governments would take them back, but they don’t want to go back,” he said.

Local governments now operating the sites with national funding, are challenging the move in the courts, fearing it will lead to a surge in homelessness if they are obliged to close shelters in November. Some mayors have refused, saying they will seek alternative funding.

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