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Dutch government to resign over asylum policy -ANP

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will hand in the resignation of his cabinet after failing to agree on measures to curb immigration, Dutch news agency ANP reported on Friday.

Rutte’s office said he would hold an emergency cabinet meeting, but did not confirm the collapse of his fourth coalition government.

A push by Rutte’s conservative VVD party to limit the flow of asylum seekers to the Netherlands split his four-party government coalition, as two junior parties refused to support his proposals.

Tensions came to a head this week, when Rutte demanded support for a proposal to limit entrance for children of war refugees who are already in the Netherlands and to make families wait at least two years before they can be united.

This last proposal made the small Christian Union decide to leave the government coalition, triggering a crisis.

A spokesman for the Christian Union could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Netherlands already has a one of Europe’s toughest immigration policies but under the pressure of right-wing parties, Rutte had for months been trying to seek ways to further reduce the inflow of asylum seekers.

Asylum applications in the Netherlands jumped by a third last year to over 46,000, and the government has projected they could increase to more than 70,000 this year – topping the previous high of 2015.

This will again put a strain on the country’s asylum facilities, where for months last year hundreds of refugees at a time were forced to sleep in the rough with little or no access to drinking water, sanitary facilities or health care.

Rutte last year said he felt “ashamed” of the problems, after humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres sent in a team to the Netherlands for the first time ever, to assist with migrants’ medical needs at the centre for processing asylum requests.

He promised to improve conditions at the facilities, mainly by reducing the number of refugees that reach the Netherlands. But he failed to win the backing of coalition partners who felt his policies went too far.

(Reporting by Bart MeijerEditing by Sandra Maler)

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