Asylum seeker Mauro offered one last chance as coalition creaks

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Teenage asylum seeker Mauro Manuel has been given a lifeline in his fight to avoid deportation after one of the governing parties decided he should be given the chance to apply for a student visa.

The 18-year-old’s case has put the fragile centre-right minority government under severe strain and become a test case for its immigration policy.

Immigration and asylum minister Gerd Leers has insisted that the Angolan has exhausted all avenues of appeal and should be sent back to his native country as soon as possible.

But his party colleagues in the Christian Democrat (CDA) group in parliament were deeply divided on the issue and called a special conference at the weekend as the prospect of a damaging split loomed.

On Tuesday morning they announced the outcome. Mauro should be allowed to stay in the Netherlands until his student visa application is decided, and Leers should arrange for a speedy decision.

A united CDA block in parliament, combined with opposition parties, would have enough votes to force the minister to comply.

Although a majority of CDA MPs backed the immigration minister’s hardline stance, a vocal group of experienced members had threatened to break from the party line on the issue.

Many rank-and-file party members voiced their unhappiness at the minister’s refusal to compromise. On Saturday 85% of delegates at the conference backed a resolution calling on the party to adopt a “humane policy” on unaccompanied child migrants.

Leers told the weekend conference that he was not prepared to exercise his ministerial discretion in Mauro’s case because it would set a precedent for around 1000 similar refugees.

However, that figure has been widely disputed as it refers to all underage asylum seekers whose cases have been concluded but who are still in the country.

The interior ministry calculates there are about 75 cases that are truly comparable to Mauro’s - people who arrived in the Netherlands before the age of 12, have lived here for at least eight years and have never been granted any kind of leave to remain. Mauro’s supporters say his case is unique because unlike other child migrants, he has been with the same foster family since he arrived as a nine-year-old.

On the other side of the debate, the government is under pressure from Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party (PVV), which has made a tougher stance on immigration one of its main conditions for supporting the minority coalition.

The CDA’s coalition partners, the Liberals (VVD), also say Mauro should return to Angola.

Leers has angrily denied suggestions that his decision not to make an exception for Mauro was influenced by Wilders, calling the accusations “scandalous”.

Source: De Pers: Mauro mag voorlopig blijven
Photo by Shirley de Jong

See also: Fate of teenage asylum seeker Mauro hangs in balance
No reprieve for 18-year-old asylum seeker Mauro

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