Dutch Deputy Minister Mark Harbers had to resign on Tuesday, May 21, after information leaked that a recent report on crime statistics among asylum seekers issued by his Ministry of Justice Department contained gross omissions, apparently, in an attempt to gloss over unfavorable statistics.
Even though Harbers stated that no “deliberate concealment” of the figures had taken place, he took full responsibility for the blooper. After a lengthy and at times emotional debate in the Dutch parliament last Tuesday, he announced he would offer his resignation to the king.
The document summed up the number of various minor felonies committed by refugees, like shoplifting and pickpocketing, while other more serious crimes like child abuse, rape, and murder were simply categorized under the heading “other.”
The conservative newspaper “De Telegraaf” revealed the omissions last week and calculated that among the 1,000 “other” reports there were a number of more severe cases, such as serious assault (51), sexual offenses (47) and (attempted) murder or manslaughter (31)—although only one person actually was killed, Harbers asserted on Tuesday. This “other” category covers more than 20 percent of the total number of registrations by the police.
Harbers had to speak out after heavy criticism from the press and other politicians, including from party leader of the Party for Freedom, Geert Wilders. Wilders compared the Ministry of Justice to a gang of mobsters for the way they presented the figures.
Geert Wilders Slams Dutch Open Borders Policies After Utrecht ‘Terror’ Shooting https://t.co/UuDFKIygTN
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 21, 2019
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte expressed on Twitter his regret over the resignation: “Politics can be tough. Respect for State Secretary Harbers’ decision to resign[sic] But it is incredibly unfortunate that the cabinet must say goodbye to such a talented and committed liberal.”
Politiek kan hard zijn. Respect voor het besluit van staatssecretaris Harbers om af te treden. Zijn afweging is zuiver. Maar ongelooflijk spijtig dat we als kabinet afscheid moeten nemen van deze talentvolle en betrokken liberaal.
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) May 21, 2019
The resignation is considered a second blow this year for the ruling conservative-liberal party, the VVD, after being bypassed on the right by a political newcomer and eurosceptic anti-immigration party, the Forum for Democracy, which went from zero to become the single biggest party in the Dutch Senate after the provincial elections in March.
Harbers is the second VVD official that had to leave the Third Rutte cabinet after Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra resigned last year.
Edwin Kreulen, a reporter for the daily journal “Trouw,” downplayed the seriousness of the bad figures. He argues that the statistics provided are too broad and too vague to draw clear-cut conclusions on.