Second Dutch minister resigns over Afghan refugee crisis

FILE PHOTO: Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld smiles during a family picture at the NATO Defence Ministers meetings in Brussels, Belgium June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch Defence minister Ank Bijleveld on Friday said she would resign over her handling of the evacuation of refugees from Afghanistan last month, following a similar move by Foreign minister Sigrid Kaag.

A majority of parliament on Thursday said both ministers bore responsibility for the government's slow response to the surge of the Taliban and for failing to prepare the safe passage of thousands of Afghans who could have been eligible for asylum in the Netherlands.

Bijleveld is the sixth minister to leave office since Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government was brought down by a childcare subsidies scandal in January.

The government has been in caretaker status since, as efforts by Rutte and Kaag to form a new government have stalled following a general election six months ago.

Kaag resigned immediately after motions of disapproval against both ministers were adopted.

Bijleveld at first said she would remain, but reconsidered a day later following heavy criticism from members of her own Christian Democrats party.

"I wanted to finish our mission to bring those who are still in Afghanistan and who count on us to safety", Bijleveld said. "But my position has become subject of discussion, and I don't want to obstruct the important job of the people that work for me."

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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