Dutch Elections: Migration Promises under the Scanner
In the run-up to the Dutch parliamentary elections, the issue of migration has taken center stage. Political parties, in their quest for electoral gain, have mooted a range of measures aimed at limiting or controlling the inflow of asylum seekers. However, these measures, while appealing to certain segments of the electorate, may prove to be mere rhetoric rather than actionable policies, according to migration experts.
Political Promises: A Closer Look
With the increase in asylum requests, parties such as BBB and PPV have proposed stringent caps on the number of asylum seekers they would admit. BBB plans to limit the intake to 15,000 asylum seekers, while PPV, led by Geert Wilders, has called for a complete cessation of asylum acceptance. Pieter Omtzigt of Nieuw Sociaal Contract, on the other hand, proposes an annual ceiling of 50,000 migrants, encompassing labor migrants, international students, asylum seekers, and family reunification.
These numbers, however, appear to be plucked from thin air, serving more to signal a firm stance on immigration rather than offering a nuanced and sustainable solution to a complex issue. Last year, the Netherlands welcomed nearly 130,000 people from within the EU alone, either for work, study, or family reunification — a figure that far exceeds the proposed limits.
The Legal Impediment
Migration experts argue that these proposed measures are not just unrealistic, but also legally unfeasible. Myrthe Wijnkoop from the Clingendael Institute pointed out the legal constraints: “As the State Secretary has repeatedly stated in Parliament, a total asylum stop is not possible under the current legal system. A hard cap, such as the proposed limit of 15,000, is also not possible under the current legal rules, because you have to assess everyone who applies for asylum here.”
The Perception Game
According to Chris Aalberts, a political communication lecturer and researcher, the issue of migration has been on the political agenda for two decades, but little has changed in terms of public perception. The numbers themselves are less important than the perception they create. The perceived influx of immigrants and the resultant pressure on housing have led right-wing parties to adopt a more hardline stance, reflected in their arbitrary caps on migrant numbers. Thus, the numbers game seems less about addressing the issue of migration and more about political posturing.
“It is easy to mention a number, but there is often a lot more to it. And that is not always communicated,” says Wijnkoop. Aalberts concurred, adding that these numbers are often “quite arbitrary” and are intended to make the party appear stricter on immigration, which is the main goal.
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