THE HAGUE: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte Sunday stood by his government’s decision to expel a Turkish minister, saying she had been an “undesirable” visitor to The Netherlands.
“What happened yesterday is totally unacceptable,” Rutte told the public NOS broadcaster, after Turkey’s Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya ignored repeated Dutch requests to Ankara not to travel to Rotterdam for a planned rally.
“It was undesirable that she was here,” Rutte added, explaining why Dutch police had escorted Kaya back to the border with Germany and expelled her in the early hours of Sunday morning.
And he hit out at Ankara for treating Dutch people with Turkish roots as Turkish citizens.
“These are Dutch citizens,” Rutte insisted, adding like Turkey “The Netherlands is a proud country.”
Hundreds of Turkish-Dutch nationals gathered outside the consulate to protest after Kaya was barred from addressing a rally planned in support of a Turkish referendum on boosting the government’s powers.
The Netherlands is home to some 400,000 people of Turkish origin, and Ankara is keen to harness votes of the diaspora in Europe ahead of an April 16 referendum on boosting presidential powers.
Rutte, who is in full campaign mode ahead of Dutch general elections on Wednesday, however stressed that he “would do all we can to de-escalate the situation” which has triggered sharp tensions with Ankara.
“We have to be the sensible party here,” he added.
Dutch police moved in early Sunday to break up the protests, using water cannon, dogs and mounted horse-back charges. Dutch media said that 12 people had been arrested and one officer was hurt.