Amnesty for young asylum seekers strains Dutch coalition


THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s four-party ruling coalition brokered a compromise late Tuesday over the politically sensitive issue of whether hundreds of young migrants should be allowed to remain in the country.

A dispute about what to do with children who have been in the Netherlands for so long during the asylum process that they often have put down roots had pitted Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy against three junior coalition partners.

The smaller three coalition parties wanted a more generous approach to such cases and an end to deportations until a commission investigating the issue publishes its findings later this year.

At a news conference late Tuesday, Migration Minister Mark Harbers said that under the deal, the cases of many children whose applications were rejected will be reviewed again. Dutch media reported that about 700 children will be affected.

“The expectation is that a large number of the rejected children will be eligible” for a residency permit, Harbers said.

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As part of the deal, immigration authorities also will be given more resources to speed up asylum applications, the migration minister will lose his discretionary power to grant residency permits in exceptional circumstances and the Dutch government will cut the number of refugees it voluntarily houses under a U.N. program from 750 per year to 500.

The issue has parallels with the political wrangling in the United States over the status of so-called dreamers — the name given by some to people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas.

A Dutch policy widely known as the “children’s pardon” that was introduced in 2013 grants asylum to children who have been in the country for more than five years while their asylum applications are processed — if they meet certain criteria. However children’s advocates say that very few youngsters were eligible.

Harbers said that the policy will be scrapped after the current cases are reviewed.

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