Dutch Plan for Aliens Encounters Resistance; the Netherlands' Bid to Deport 26,000faces Opposition and Logistical Problems

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Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A leading Dutch immigration expert says the Netherlands faces a severe logistical challenge in implementing a hotly debated new law to expel some 26,000 foreigners who have failed to qualify for asylum by 2006.

Rinus Penninx, academic director of the University of Amsterdam's Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, said during a Washington visit last week that local officials in major Dutch cities are already in open revolt against the federal government's plan.

"Nobody knows how to do it, nobody knows where to put them and nobody knows where they will live," Mr. Penninx said. "The aims of the national policy simply aren't being accepted at the local level."

The fate of the Dutch immigration crackdown is being closely watched across Europe, where populist fringe parties have made striking electoral gains with anti-immigrant platforms in recent years.

"It's going to be very interesting to watch," said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, president of the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

"It's still not clear yet whether other countries will catch the Dutch disease, or whether this is one of those political fashions that come and go, but never develop roots."

Countries across Western Europe tightened immigration quotas ahead of the addition of 10 mostly poorer new states to the European Union in May.

Just last week, an Italian court declared invalid large parts of a tough immigration law passed by the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one part of which called for the mandatory arrest of any immigrant who defied a five-day deadline to leave the country.

Once one of the most tolerant and most densely populated countries on the continent, the Netherlands has embraced tough new immigration policies in the past two years. The laws and proposed regulations target both those who applied for asylum and the more than 400,000 long-term legal immigrants - so-called "oldcomers" - who have failed to integrate into Dutch society.

Refugee-advocacy groups have criticized the new Dutch policies. Among those facing deportation are refugees from such troubled places as the Balkans, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.

"We are deeply concerned that some of the people subject to the planned deportations may be at risk of return to a country or a part of a country where their lives or freedom would be threatened," Human Rights Watch Europe division director Rachel Denber complained to the Dutch government in February. …