'Burqa ban' key to Dutch coalition
Political deal to form minority government including anti-immigration party could result in ban on face-covering veil.
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2010 15:37 GMT
The new Dutch government intends unprecedented measures to reign in immigration [EPA] 

The new Dutch government could be the second country after France to impose a ban on the full face-covering veil after the formation of a minority coalition government.

The anti-immigration Freedom Party demanded the so-called "burqa ban" and a pledge to halve immigration as the price for joining two center-right parties in government.

"We want to stop the Islamisation [of the Netherlands]" Geert Wilders, the Freedom party leader, told a news conference as he stood alongside the leaders of the pro-business VVD party and the Christian Democrats (CDA).

The move is seen by many as a shift to the right, which has dented the ruling bloc's reputation for tolerance and may increase security risks. Wilders is currently on trial in the Netherlands for inciting hatred against Muslims.

Immigration 'problems'

Maxime Verhagen, the CDA leader, defended the draft agreement, which has yet to be endorsed by his party.

"This cabinet will assure our freedom, for everybody and everybody in the same way - man, woman ... Christian or Muslim," he said.

However, the longest chapter of the accord between the parties is devoted to immigration.

"A reduction of immigration is in order and urgent given the societal problems," the document states. "The immigration policy ... is aimed at limiting and reducing the arrival of migrants with few prospects."

It proposes stricter conditions for granting asylum and making it harder for the partners and children of immigrant workers to move to The Netherlands. 

The country would be able to bar entry to radical religious leaders, while convicted immigrants will be expelled sooner and more often and immigrants will lose their temporary residence permit if they fail an integration exam.

Deep divisions

CDA party members are deeply divided over co-operation with Wilders and it is still not certain if they will back the coalition government. If they do, the CDA's 21 MPs must put their final stamp on the deal before Queen Beatrix can give presumed prime minister-in-waiting Mark Rutte, the VVD leader, the go-ahead to form his cabinet.

The VVD narrowly won the June 9 elections with 31 out of 150 parliamentary seats but needs partners to form a government.

The Freedom Party will remain outside the envisaged VVD-CDA cabinet but will provide the minority government with the majority it needs to pass decisions.

Mustafa Ayrance, the president of the Turkish Workers Union in The Netherlands, said that minorities would likely suffer if the deal goes ahead.

"I fear groups will turn against each other. The tensions in society will increase and we are not accustomed to that. Our country has room for everyone," he told news agency ANP.

Muslims make up about six percent, or one million, of the 16 million population of the Netherland.

Dutch governments in the past have said they planned to ban full-face veils, but have never pushed through a law.

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