U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Netherlands

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Netherlands , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8cf4c.html [accessed 16 October 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


At the end of 1999, the Netherlands hosted about 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 22,751 asylum seekers with pending first instance cases, some 6,000 Kosovo refugees with temporary protection who had not applied for asylum, 1,507 individuals granted asylum during the year, 3,470 persons issued residence permits on humanitarian grounds, 4,519 individuals not from Kosovo who were granted temporary protection, 1,988 Yugoslavs denied asylum who nevertheless remained in need of protection, and an estimated 500 refugees resettled in the Netherlands during the year (mostly from former Yugoslavia).

During the year, 39,299 persons applied for asylum in the Netherlands, a decrease of 13 percent from 1998 (primarily because fewer nationals of Afghanistan and Iraq filed claims). Still, these two countries remained the primary source of asylum seekers in 1999 (4,400 and 3,703 respectively), followed by Yugoslavia (3,692). The Netherlands received the fourth most applications among European countries (fifth relative to its population).

The Netherlands extended temporary protection to about 14,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees during the year. Some 2,300 had returned to Kosovo at year's end.

Dutch authorities issued merits decisions on 50,860 applications in 1999, granting refugee status to 1,507 applicants – a 3 percent approval rate. An additional 3,470 (7 percent) received permits to stay on humanitarian grounds, and 4,519 (9 percent) received temporary protection (conditional residence permits). The Netherlands denied refugee or subsidiary status to 51,364 persons whose claims were deemed to be admissible.

Sponsored voluntary repatriations increased in 1999; some 1,400 refugees repatriated, compared to 889 in 1998. However, a Ministry of Justice study reported that the vast majority of rejected asylum seekers did not contemplate repatriation as an option.

Refugees from Yugoslavia

The Netherlands hosted 4,062 ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo evacuated from camps in Macedonia under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) humanitarian evacuation program (HEP). The government decided in April to extend temporary protection to Kosovo refugees in the form of a residence permit conditionally renewable every year. In addition to HEP evacuees, some 3,000 asylum seekers from Kosovo already in the country and another estimated 7,000 who arrived spontaneously during the year also received temporary protection. Family reunification occurred only in exceptional cases. The authorities froze the processing of asylum applications, but allowed the filing of new claims.

Dutch authorities stopped renewing residence permits for Kosovo refugees at the end of July. No exploratory visits were organized, and roughly 2,300 ethnic Albanians had returned to the province by year's end. The government indicated in December that it planned to revoke temporary residence permits for the remaining 12,000 Kosovo Albanian beneficiaries of temporary protection.

Asylum Procedure

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for asylum determinations. Asylum seekers must lodge their claim at one of four registration centers, which screens them for admissibility within 48 working hours and refers admissible claims to the Relief and Investigation Center. Legislation adopted in 1998 increased the threshold of proof required for undocumented asylum seekers.

A second interview, conducted by a Ministry of Justice official, forms the basis for assessing the merits of a claim. Adults can receive one of three statuses. Refugee status is valid indefinitely, and encompasses rights consistent with the UN Refugee Convention. Residence permits awarded on humanitarian grounds are valid for one year, but are usually renewed. A conditional residence permit (temporary protection) is based on conditions in the country of origin, and can be withdrawn when conditions are deemed safe for return. After three years, however, temporary protection beneficiaries can apply for a permanent residence permit. Unaccompanied minors who do not receive refugee or humanitarian status and whose relatives are untraceable are eligible for a special renewable one-year residence permit. After three years, they can apply for a permanent permit.

There are various levels of appeal. Applicants can appeal a negative admissibility decision only once, to a judge. The Ministry of Justice reviews claims rejected on their merits. In 1999, it reversed approximately one-quarter of negative decisions. The final appeal is to a judge. Either the ministry or the court can decide whether the applicant can remain in the Netherlands during the appeal procedures.

(The government announced in February 2000 that it would grant humanitarian status to certain categories of survivors from the 1995 massacre of ethnic Muslims in Srebrenica, Bosnia. Dutch peacekeeping troops were present in Srebrenica at the time.)

Court Decisions

In May, a court in The Hague reprimanded the deputy minister of justice for violating the right to privacy of more than 1,000 asylum seekers by transmitting their dossiers to a research institute.

In June, the Netherlands avoided an adverse ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, based on Article 3 of the European Convention, the prohibition of torture, by reaching a friendly settlement with a Kurd of Turkish origin. Authorities had rejected the man's 1995 application for asylum because he had sought refuge from political persecution abroad rather than in safer areas of his own country (an "internal flight alternative"). At year's end, the European Court was still considering another Article 3 case against the Netherlands. The plaintiff, an Iranian national, was a rejected asylum seeker from Iran who feared for his safety if deported.

A Dutch court also annulled the forced return of a Turkish asylum seeker to Germany under the terms of the Dublin Convention (see chart). The court argued that Germany did not constitute a "safe third country" where the applicant should have first lodged his claim, because conscientious objection was not a ground for asylum in that country.

Restrictive Practices

As elsewhere in the EU, the Netherlands took increasingly restrictive measures against rejected asylum seekers. In June, the government decided that, beginning in January 2000, rejected asylum seekers would have four weeks to leave Dutch territory, after which they would lose all assistance and face arrest.

The Netherlands also decided in 1999 that Sudanese, Iraqi, and certain categories of Somali asylum seekers were no longer eligible for temporary protection. Authorities revoked existing permits in early 1999 for these nationalities.

The Netherlands and Belgium announced in January that they would carry out joint deportation flights to minimize operational costs. At the time, the Netherlands reiterated that involuntary repatriation would occur only if the applicant's safety was not in doubt in the country of origin. During the year, the government authorized the resumption of deportations to Iran, northern Iraq, Turkey, northern Sudan, and parts of Somalia. However, the Netherlands suspended deportations of Kurds to Turkey in July, after allegations of mistreatment – including one fatality – of repatriated Kurds at the hands of Turkish authorities. In accordance with the UNHCR position, the Netherlands considered Afghanistan unsafe for repatriation.

According to the Dutch government, some 15,000 rejected asylum seekers repatriated voluntarily or were forcibly removed in 1999 (excluding Kosovo evacuees and sponsored repatriations). The main countries of origin were Yugoslavia, Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Algeria, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

Reception and Integration

Most asylum seekers remain in collective centers throughout the asylum procedure. Repeat applicants are not offered accommodation; nor are cases assessed to be the responsibility of another state party to the Dublin Convention (see chart). The government makes exceptions for pressing humanitarian circumstances or if the Dublin referral claim is late.

Reception facilities include the four registration centers for the 48-hour admissibility period, 16 centers for the initial merits review, and 72 centers for the duration of the appeals. After six months, asylum seekers are given a small financial incentive to seek alternative housing. At year's end, 55,450 people lived in reception centers, and another 9,250 in alternative housing. Length of stay often exceeded the 7 month maximum the authorities had originally planned. In 1999, the occupancy rate of reception centers reached 98 percent, the government said.

Asylum seekers are allowed to perform short-term work for up to 12 weeks per year. In the face of looming labor shortages, however, the government decided in December to allow asylum seekers to work in any capacity for 16 weeks per year. The new rule applies to all first- and second-year holders of temporary residence permits.

A court in Arnhem ruled in August that asylum seekers who had filed their application before the implementation of the restrictive "link law" in July 1998, and were lawfully awaiting a decision in the Netherlands, were entitled to child benefits. (The "link law" prohibited nonresident foreigners from receiving social benefits.)

The Ministry of Interior is responsible for the social integration of refugees who have received a residence permit. All Dutch municipalities must take in a share of refugees: in 1999, they provided accommodation to 12,900 new holders of residence permits. The 1998 Law on Integration of Newcomers mandated a series of courses for the cultural, social, and professional orientation of foreigners admitted to stay in the country. The program excluded holders of conditional residence permits, however.

The Netherlands allows refugees, persons with humanitarian status, and certain conditional residents to apply for family members abroad to join them under its family reunification procedure – although the procedure lacks a legal basis. The Dutch government announced plans to DNA-test family reunification applicants. The testing was to begin in February 2000, initially for claims by refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan.

After five years of legal residence in the country, foreigners can apply for permanent residence or Dutch citizenship. In addition, undocumented immigrants filed some 4,000 requests for residence permits during a countrywide "legalization" campaign that ended in December. Asylum seekers who were present in the country since January 1992, and could demonstrate sufficient integration into Dutch society, were among the eligible groups. The government also liberalized residence requirements for Iranian asylum seekers applying for legalization. Authorities hoped to process all claims by April 2000.

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