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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Dutch getting tough on asylum seekers
Fortuyn supporter celebrate the results of May elections
Fortuyn supporters will be part of the next government
The Netherlands is preparing to introduce some of Europe's toughest immigration policies, as the populist anti-immigrant party of the late Pim Fortuyn prepares to take a place in government.

The assassinated politician's LPF movement is in coalition negotiations with the conservative Christian Democrats (CDA) - the largest party after May's election - and the liberal VVD party.

Payments required
Language course: 1,500 euro deposit
Marriage of non-EU foreigner: 2,000 euros
They have approved a raft of radical measures on immigration - including making all asylum seekers pay large sums of money to remain permanently in the country.

They have also reached agreement on other thorny issues such as health funding and social security.

"Everything is really shaping up now, and we expect to be able to announce both a cabinet and a programme in just a few weeks time," CDA spokesman Hans van der Vlies told BBC News Online.


Legal immigrants have been using marriage as a trick to get more people into the country

Hans van der Vlies
CDA
He said consensus was reached almost immediately on the need for tough action on immigration - an issue which Mr Fortuyn moved to the centre of the Dutch political agenda.

His LPF movement, which called for the Netherlands to close its border to foreigners and force those already there to integrate, picked up 26 of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament - an astonishing performance from a party which was just three months old.

Payment please

Under the proposals, a new security force will be set up to deal exclusively with illegal immigration, while more police units will be deployed to stop clandestine border crossing.

The three parties are agreed that people whose applications for asylum are unlikely to succeed should be deported within 24 hours.

The new force will also work on rooting out those whose applications have been rejected, and organising their immediate expulsion.

Pim Fortuyn
Fortuyn pushed immigration onto the Dutch political agenda
But the most unusual aspect of the policy is a plan to make all immigrants from non-EU countries pay a hefty deposit for a mandatory Dutch language course, which would have to be completed before a green card would be issued.

According to Mr Van der Vlies, the parties have agreed that 1,500 euros ($1,450) must be paid at the start of the course.

The money would be refunded once the course was completed.

'Not poor'

Other countries such as Denmark, which has recently toughened its stance on immigration, have also made language classes compulsory - though free of charge.

"Asylum seekers don't have any money," said a spokesman for the Ministry for Refugees in Copenhagen. "It seems a very strange idea to make them pay."

But Mr Van der Vlies said that many people who arrived in the Netherlands were not without resources.

"Many immigrants have paid smugglers a lot of money to get here in the first place. We're not talking about the poorest of the poor."

Legal immigrants who want to bring a foreign spouse to reside with them will have to pay around 2,000 euros ($1930) before their partner will be allowed into the country.

This would not be refundable.

"Basically legal immigrants have been using marriage as a trick to get more people into the country," said Mr Van der Vlies.

"We hope this will make them think twice."

Fortuyn's legacy

Mr Fortuyn rode high on a wave of popular resentment about immigration, which he connected with rising crime.

The Netherlands, he said, was a "full" country, and those who were here should be forced to accept Dutch culture and values.

He objected strongly to Islam, with its refusal to tolerate homosexuality or accord women equal rights.

When it started negotiations with the LPF, the CDA said it would seek to tone down Mr Fortuyn's more radical ideas.

But most of them now appear to be on the verge of being put into effect.


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