AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The stability of the Dutch governing coalition is in doubt after its parties failed to agree on measures to curb immigration, with crisis talks expected to run into the weekend.
A push by Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative VVD party to limit the flow of asylum seekers to the Netherlands split his four-party government coalition, as two junior parties refused to support proposals to make it harder for refugee families to reunite.
Talks between the coalition partners ran until 1.45 a.m. on Friday morning (2345 GMT Thursday).
"We are in a process, in the cabinet, to reach an agreement on migration. That is a step-by-step process. And tonight was a step", Rutte told Dutch reporters.
Dutch media has reported Rutte is willing to let the government fall if an agreement is not reached.
Asylum applications in the Netherlands jumped by a third last year to over 46,000, and are expected to increase to more than 70,000 this year - topping the previous high of 2015.
This will again put a strain on the country's asylum facilities, where for months last year hundreds of refugees at a time were forced to sleep in the rough with little or no access to drinking water, sanitary facilities, or healthcare.
Rutte last year said he felt "ashamed" of the problems after humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres had sent in a team to the Netherlands for the first time ever, to assist with migrants' medical needs at the centre for processing asylum requests.
He promised to improve conditions at the facilities, mainly by reducing the number of refugees that reach the Netherlands. But he failed to win the backing of coalition partners who felt his policies went too far.
Tensions came to a head this week, when Rutte demanded support for a proposal to limit entrance for children of war refugees who are already in the Netherlands and to make families wait at least two years before they can be united.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer, Charlotte Van Campenhout; Editing by Toby Chopra)