Dutch won't condemn anti-east European website
(WARSAW) - The Dutch government will not condemn a website set up by a far-right party to pool complaints against east European migrants, Immigration Minister Gerd Leers said Thursday in Poland.
"We don't support this website in any way," Leers told reporters after meeting with Polish officials on what he insisted was not a fence-mending trip.
"My government is not responsible for the initiatives of parties in parliament. We live in a parliamentary democracy, and everybody is free to express what he wants," he said.
"It's not up to us as a government to comment on or excuse ourselves for the website," he added.
The "Report Middle and Eastern Europeans" site is the brainchild of the Freedom Party, which provides voting support in parliament for the centre-right Dutch minority coalition but remains outside government.
The party, whose anti-Islamist leader Geert Wilders was acquitted of hate speech last year, launched it last month to gather complaints against the "nuisance" of migrant workers.
That angered Poland and the nine other east European nations which have joined the European Union since 2004, taking the bloc to 27 members.
They have called the site discriminatory.
Some 350,000 east Europeans live in the Netherlands, or two percent of the country's population of 16.6 million, according to official data.
Leers said migrants were an asset to the Dutch labour market and that the vast majority caused no problems.
But he flagged up concerns about the number who claim benefits, saying it was expected to hit 12,000 this year, or over three percent of all Dutch-based east Europeans.
While lower than the overall Dutch unemployment rate of six percent, the number of east European claimants has doubled since 2010, Leers noted.
"This is not about stigmatising a group," he said,
"We have learned in recent years that hiding these problems behind the word populism does not work at all and will not lead to acceptance of minority groups," he explained.
He said more needed to be done to help migrants integrate and to get those who are out of work to return home, saying it was a matter of restoring Dutch faith in the EU.
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