Dutch King Calls for Calm Amid Violence and Threats Over Asylum Seekers

Dutch King Calls For Calm
King Willem-Alexander's appeal follows a series of threats and protests from both sides of the political divide this month. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The Dutch king has called for calm in the Netherlands after a series of threats and violent incidents over the number of asylum seekers in the country.

During a state visit to China on Wednesday, King Willem-Alexander told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS that there had to be an end to the "intimidation and threats" back at home. "In the Netherlands, we discuss issues, we don't fight over them," he said.

"I can imagine the worries that exist. But we discuss them in the Netherlands," King Willem-Alexander continued. "If you descend into intimidation and threats, you corrode the values that the Netherlands represents."

The king's appeal follows a series of threats and protests from both sides of the political divide this month. On Monday night, two cars belonging to a far-left, pro-refugee councillor were set on fire near Wormerland, just north of Amsterdam. On Tuesday evening, the parliamentary leader of prime minister Mark Rutte's Liberals, Halbe Zijlstra, was sent a bullet in the post after he urged the government to cut provisions for refugees.

The prime minister has already publicly condemned a death threat sent to the mayor of the village of Rijssen-Holten, after he announced plans to settle 200 refugees earlier this month. Threats were made against councillors and their families by far-right groups in Rijswijk, according to the Irish Times.

Earlier this month, Rotterdam's mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, was shouted down by angry inhabitants when he announced plans to settle 600 refugees in the city and a refugee center was burnt down in the city of Woerden, according to AFP.

Applications for asylum in the Netherlands increased from 13,000 in 2012 to 24,000 in 2014. The total number arriving this year could top 60,000, the government says. The Netherlands is the eighth-largest destination for asylum seekers in Europe, accounting for four percent of total arrivals in 2014, according to Eurostat data.

In September, the European Commission announced that 120,000 additional asylum seekers, on top of the 40,000 announced in May, would be distributed among EU nations, with binding quotas. The majority are Syrians fleeing fighting at home. The Netherlands has been asked to resettle just under 10,000.

Echoing the king's sentiments, the leaders of the main Dutch political parties also issued a joint appeal for an end to the violence with an open letter in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on Wednesday.

"Meetings are being shouted down by people with whom it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion," the appeal reads. "Concerned citizens are being accused of racism. People are swearing at each other and wishing each other unspeakable things on demonstrations.

"Let each other speak, even if you really disagree with them," the letter continues. "In the Netherlands, we debate without threats, intimidation and violence."

Support for the anti-Islam, anti-migration Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders, who signed the letter, has also risen, according to a new poll conducted by the country's public broadcaster NOS. If a general election were held tomorrow, Wilders' party would gain 37 seats in the Dutch parliament, in addition to the party's current 12 seats.