The Hague, Jan 15 (efe-epa).- The government of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte resigned Friday in the wake of a child welfare scandal in which thousands of families, many of immigrant origin, were wrongly accused of benefit fraud.
Dutch media and public broadcaster NOS said Rutte would officially tender his resignation to the king but that ministers would remain in a caretaker government until elections on 17 March.
The move comes at a crucial time in the Netherlands’ Covid-19 campaign with the country still in lockdown to contain a surge in cases.
With the decision, however, Rutte’s cabinet wanted to take responsibility for what is widely regarded as the biggest scandal to hit the liberal formation since it came to power in 2010.
The first cases surrounding the scandal goes back to 2014 when the country’s tax agency began to send letters to more than 26,000 families baselessly accusing them of fraudulent child welfare claims.
Authorities demanded many families to back tens of thousands of euros and blocked access to welfare without explanation.
Some families were left destitute and homeless as they tried to make the repayments and appeals were ignored.
An investigation into the scandal found that the majority of the affected families had immigrated to the Netherlands and their second nationality had been listed on official paperwork in breach of anti-discrimination measures.
A parliamentary committee last month said there had been “unprecedented injustices” committed against the families and that their treatment by the state had been discriminatory and unlawful.
The probe embroiled ministers, civil servants and judges.
Reacting to the news, the leader of the left-wing GroenLinks party, Jesse Klaver, said the resignation was the government’s only option.EFE-EPA