THE HAGUE, – As campaigning heats up for March 15th national elections in the Netherlands, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has released a full-page message published Monday in national newspapers saying “We have to actively defend our values” against people who refuse to integrate.
Rutte’s message was aimed at luring voters away from anti-immigration lawmaker Geert Wilders hard-line platform.
Rutte, leader of the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, says he understands calls for people who don’t integrate to leave the Netherlands. He says, “I have that feeling, too. Behave normally or go away.”
Wilders hit back on Twitter, calling Rutte “the man of open borders, the asylum tsunami, mass immigration, Islamization, lies and deception.”
Immigration and integration have been hot-button issues in the Netherlands for years. Last year’s refugee crisis did little to abate the sentiment that elites refuse to curtail the inflow of people, successive governments have taken steps to enhance the assimilation of non-natives.
This is a slow process, however, and in the meantime, every time there is a riot in an immigrant neighborhood; every time a survey shows the non-native Dutch have problematic attitudes toward homosexuality and women’s rights and every time some Moroccan-Dutch youth are implicated in a crime, Wilders benefits.