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Samsom calls Labour summit as tension grows over immigration plan

The Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) is to hold a special council on illegal immigration after party delegates emphatically rejected the leadership’s stance on the issue at the weekend.

Party leader Diederik Samsom has faced increasing unrest over the issue of illegal immigration.The coalition agreement that Labour agreed with the Liberals (VVD) in November included a proposed law which would make it a criminal offence to stay in the Netherlands without authorisation.

At a party conference on Saturday an overwhelming majority backed a motion against the policy, arguing it went against Labour’s fundamental commitment to “the right to a decent living”.

It was put forward by Sander Terphuis, a former Iranian refugee who has also launched an online petition against what he called an “inhuman and unjust” measure.

There has been growing tension within the social-demcratic party over the issue of criminalising illegal immigration. Senior party leaders have admitted it is a bitter pill to swallow, but maintain that the leadership cannot go back on the coalition deal now.

Labour opposed the idea while in opposition, but Samsom agreed to support it in return for concessions elsewhere by the right-wing Liberals, who have taken an increasingly hard line on immigration in recent years.

The concessions included an amnesty for all children who have been seeking asylum in the Netherlands for five years or longer and their families.

Party leader Diederik Samson insisted he would not go back on the deal he struck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“I made an agreement and with your consent I gave my word,” said Samsom, referring to the party’s endorsement of the whole coalition agreement when it met in November.

But after Saturday’s vote Samsom said he would organise a special meeting of the party’s policy council on May 12.

On the PvdA’s website he wrote: “I have taken note of the fact that more time and space is needed for the Parliamentary party group to discuss this issue. I want to do that in the short term and explain our reasoning on this issue to the party members.”

The policy council is an internal body made up of delegates from various groups within the party that advises Labour’s MPs and the party leadership.