Dutch Senate defies prospective government parties over migration law

FILE PHOTO: Dutch politicians meet after election to start coalition talks

By Bart H. Meijer

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch Senate will support a law to evenly spread asylum seekers over municipalities in the Netherlands, despite strong resistance from far-right election winner Geert Wilders' Freedom Party and other parties looking to form a new government.

The law aims to resolve a continuing crisis at the country's overcrowded processing centre for asylum seekers, where at times hundreds of people have been forced to sleep in the rough due to a shortage of available shelters in the rest of the country.

The law, which could force municipalities to take in a given number of asylum seekers, had been adopted by the country's lower legislative body before the Nov. 22 election won by the anti-immigration Freedom Party led by Wilders.

But it remained contentious, as Wilders and the conservative VVD party of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte remained opposed, together with the other two parties that are now involved in the talks to form a coalition government.

In the end, Rutte's own party members in the Senate made a surprising U-turn on Tuesday and said they would support the law, giving it a decisive majority in the upper chamber.

The four prospective government parties are still far from any pact almost eight weeks after the election, as they try to agree on common ground to assuage the serious doubts parties have voiced over working with Wilders.

If they reach an agreement, they would be forced to deal with the law that the Senate is now set to officially adopt on Jan. 23.

"My god," Wilders said in a post on X in response to news about the VVD's Senate decision.

Ruben Brekelmans, a VVD lawmaker in the lower chamber, said he wished his Senate colleagues had waited for an agreement on stricter migration policies before handling the spread of asylum seekers.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Paul Simao)