Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s four-party ruling coalition was struggling Tuesday to reach agreement over whether to call a temporary halt to deportations of young asylum seekers.
The dispute pits Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy against three junior coalition partners that want an end to deportations until a commission investigating the issue publishes its findings later this year.
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.
The leaders of the four ruling parties were expected to meet Tuesday, a day after what they described as “constructive” discussions on the divisive issue.
“We made progress, but we are not there yet,” Rob Jetten, leader of centrist party D66, told Dutch media in The Hague.
Klaas Dijkhoff, parliamentary leader of Rutte’s party, suggested Tuesday that a compromise could be reached.
“I’m prepared to consider alternatives,” he told national broadcaster NOS.
Activists say that some 400 children should be allowed to remain in the Netherlands under a policy widely known as the “children’s pardon” that was introduced in 2013.
It 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 are eligible.
If the disparate parties that make up Rutte’s third ruling coalition can’t reach agreement, the dispute could bring down the government.
A policy blueprint drawn up by the coalition when it took office in October 2017 said that the new government would not alter existing policy on young asylum seekers.
However three of the parties are now appealing for it to be changed. Rutte’s party has said it wants to stick to the policy blueprint.
A parliamentary debate is scheduled for Wednesday.
The issue comes some two months before provincial elections in the Netherlands that also determine the makeup of parliament’s upper house, the Senate.