Posted on September 30, 2004

Cabinet Split On Antillean Entry-Expulsion Plan, Sep. 24

AMSTERDAM — Plans to crackdown on Antillean delinquents by restricting their entry to the Netherlands and deporting criminal teens back to the Caribbean state have temporarily been shelved after divisions opened up within the Dutch Cabinet.

Democrat D66 Minister for Kingdom Relations Thom de Graaf is strongly resisting the plans drawn up by Liberal VVD Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Friday.

The cabinet decided on Friday instead to set up a commission of Antillean and Dutch experts to investigate how best to tackle the problem of delinquents from the Netherlands Antilles. The commission will also investigate “measures to regulate migration” from the five Caribbean islands which make up the Netherlands Antilles.

Political sources have earlier said that De Graaf was even opposed to Verdonk’s compromise proposal to set up the commission. But both ministers announced the decision on Friday and denied speculations of a cabinet rift.

The government coalition parties explicitly requested the creation of an “entry regulation” for Antillean youth three weeks ago. Verdonk promised the Dutch Parliament that she would draw such a policy up.

But under pressure from De Graaf this week, the VVD minister put both proposed measures on the backburner and suggested as a compromise that the investigative commission could be set up.

De Graaf was said to be resisting the compromise also, placing him at odds with his own party, which is in favour of imposing entry regulations on Antillean youth.

Amid the Dutch moves to tackle immigration and integration problems in the Netherlands, concern over Antillean delinquents has been a hot topic of debate in recent years. A brutal murder co-committed by Antilleans in the southern city of Tilburg sparked community outrage in July 2003.

Many Antilleans in Rotterdam live on welfare and the police claimed last week that up to EUR 100 million a year in drugs money is sent back to the Antilles and Aruba each year, adding weight to calls to restrict the entry of Antilleans to the Netherlands.

Verdonk is drawing up the entry and expulsion proposals based on her responsibilities as Integration and Immigration Minister, but most policies directly affecting Antilleans are De Graaf’s responsibility.

De Graaf is resisting the entry and expulsion regulation for Antilleans precisely because the Netherlands Antilles — along with Aruba — makes up part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and as such, Antilleans have Dutch passports.

The Dutch government has no say or control over the place of residence of its citizens and refusing entry or deporting Antilleans is therefore illegal, De Graaf asserts.

Meanwhile, the D66 minister has high hopes that discussions with the Antillean Prime Minister Etienne Ys will result in a good package of policies to lessen the impact of Verdonk’s plans. The package consists primarily of social aid for the Antilles, where problem youth can be more quickly and directly given assistance.