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Dutch Party Offers General Amnesty

May 25, 2002

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ A Dutch anti-immigration party whose leader was assassinated is proposing offering general amnesty to thousands of illegal immigrants before turning to tougher measures.

The interview published Saturday with the leader of Pim Fortuyn’s List comes two days before the parties who won in last week’s election meet to discuss guidelines for forming a coalition. Those parties are: the List, the Christian Democrats and the free-market Liberals.

Herben, head of the List, said in an interview in the daily Volkskrant that such a measure is necessary, ``whether there are 7,000 or 12,000″ illegal immigrants.

Pim Fortuyn, who was shot dead May 6, had said his party wanted to close the borders to new immigrants to enable to country to concentrate on integrating those already here.

It is all but certain the next cabinet will be led by the conservative Christian Democrats under Jan Peter Balkenende.

The Christian Democrats have also lobbied for stricter immigration criteria, including compulsory entrance exams. Failure in the test would lead to deportation.

Immigration officials say the Netherlands already has some of the toughest restrictions in Europe on accepting asylum seekers. On Wednesday, the government deported 53 illegal immigrants _ 43 Bulgarians and 10 Romanians _ in the ninth such deportation this year.

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