Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Netherlands

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Netherlands , 1 January 1999, available at: [accessed 21 January 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 1998, the Netherlands hosted about 47,000 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 31,535 asylum seekers with pending cases, 2,356 individuals granted asylum and 340 refugees resettled in the Netherlands during the year, 3,591 issued residence permits on humanitarian grounds, and 9,152 granted temporary asylum.

Some 45,217 persons applied for asylum in the Netherlands during 1998, a 31 percent increase over the 34,443 asylum seekers who filed claims in 1997. During 1998, the largest number of asylum seekers came from Iraq (8,300), followed by Afghanistan (7,118), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (4,288), Bosnia-Hercegovina (3,769), and Somalia (2,775).

Dutch authorities issued merits decisions on 37,279 applications during 1998, granting refugee status to 2,356 applicants, a 6.3 percent approval rate. An additional 3,591 (9.6 percent) received permits to stay on humanitarian grounds, and 9,152 (24.6 percent) received temporary asylum (conditional permits to stay). During 1998, the Netherlands denied refugee and other status to 22,180 asylum applicants in merits adjudications. Authorities deemed the cases of an additional 5,993 asylum applicants as inadmissible to the asylum procedure.

New Restrictions

Responding to the significant increase in asylum applications, the Netherlands passed several changes to its Aliens Law in 1998. These changes capped a series of restrictive asylum amendments to the Dutch Aliens Act enacted between 1993 and 1997.

In March, the Dutch parliament passed the "link law," which prohibits nonresident foreigners, including rejected asylum seekers, from receiving social benefits. The law also provides for enhanced enforcement through computer upgrades that enable Dutch municipalities to exchange data on the status of foreigners in the country. On October 7, however, a court in the Hague ruled that the link law contravenes the 1953 European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance. The Ministry of Social Affairs appealed the decision, which remained pending at the end of 1998.

The "loophole law," passed in June, grants border guards and immigration officials greater authority to search vehicles, question passengers, and obtain and make copies of the identity documents of persons believed to have entered the Netherlands illegally. The law also closes legal loopholes that had enabled undocumented foreigners arriving by air or ship to enter the Netherlands. Border authorities may detain undocumented arrivals at air and sea ports pending their deportation.

The loophole law further enables Dutch authorities to extend the maximum time for deciding asylum claims from six months to three years when faced with a mass influx of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers whose asylum applications have been delayed under the provision receive provisional residency rights. The government must inform the parliament prior to invoking this clause. Finally, the loophole law introduces a single application for asylum and residence permits on humanitarian grounds.

During 1998, the government also introduced draft legislation that would make it easier to deny the asylum applications of undocumented asylum seekers. No laws to this effect were passed by year's end, however.

Authorities began to enforce more strictly Dutch law on carrier sanctions in 1998, suing KLM, the Dutch airline, for carrying passengers without transit visas. In December, the Haarlem court imposed a 3.2 million Dutch Guilder ($1.5 million) fine on the airlines for failure to comply with the transit visa requirement.

In contrast to increasingly restrictive asylum policies, in August, the Dutch Chamber of Standardization of Aliens Law agreed with UNHCR that persecution could exist in states without a central government, and that persons fleeing from such countries may be entitled to refugee status. Previously, the Netherlands recognized nonstate persecution in cases where governments are unable to protect their citizens effectively, but not in cases where effective governance in a country had ceased to exist.

Access to Asylum

Asylum seekers must register with the authorities immediately upon arrival. Persons arriving by land are to report to one of several reception centers on located on the Belgian and German borders, where Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials determine the asylum seeker's admissibility to the determination procedure. The Dutch authorities run another reception center at Schipol Airport, where INS officials also screen asylum seekers for admissibility.

An asylum seeker is inadmissible to the Dutch asylum procedure if another European Union (EU) member state is responsible for reviewing the asylum application in accordance with the Dublin Convention, an EU agreement that designates state responsibility for deciding asylum claims. Generally, Dublin holds that the EU country that permits an asylum seeker entry, or the first EU country of arrival in the event of illegal entry, is responsible for examining the asylum application.

In 1998, the Netherlands requested other EU members to assume responsibility for readmitting and reviewing the asylum requests of 6,418 persons under the terms of the Dublin Convention. Of these, other EU states agreed to accept 5,686. During the year, other EU countries requested the Netherlands to readmit and review the asylum applications of 1,057 asylum seekers, of which the Netherlands agreed to accept responsibility for 823 individuals.

Persons whose cases are determined to be manifestly unfounded or inadmissable during the initial interview receive a second interview the same day in which they may rebut the negative decision. INS must issue a final decision on admissibility to the asylum procedure within 24 hours.

Persons whose cases are judged to be admissible in the 24-hour screening procedure enter the normal determination procedure and are transferred to a separate investigation reception center, where a Ministry of Justice liaison officer reviews their case.

During the asylum procedure, asylum seekers receive housing, a monthly allowance, and access to medical care. In August 1998, the government approved a labor law amendment, which would grant asylum seekers limited permission to work after six months residence in the Netherlands. Recognized refugees receive residence permits, permission to work, Dutch language training, and eligibility for housing and social assistance.


Asylum seekers denied refugee status may still be eligible for permits to stay on humanitarian grounds or for temporary asylum. Both humanitarian status and temporary-asylum recipients receive one-year renewable residence permits and may apply for permanent residence after three years. However, temporary asylum is more conditional than humanitarian status. If conditions should change in the country of origin prior to a person's adjustment to permanent residence, the status may not be renewed and deportation may occur.

Asylum seekers may challenge negative decisions in the normal procedure with the Ministry of Justice, which reviews the case. If the review is negative, the applicant may still lodge an appeal with the court.

Applicants rejected in the accelerated procedure also have the right to a court appeal but must simultaneously request a suspension of their deportation pending a preliminary ruling. The government abolished the right to a second appeal to the highest administrative court (Raad van State) in 1994.

Lawyers assisting asylum seekers denied in the accelerated procedure may ask the Ministry of Justice to review cases if they allege that a decision was seriously flawed. When such objections are raised, the applicant generally is admitted to the normal procedure.

Housing Shortages

The substantial increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the Netherlands in 1998 severely strained the country's ability to provide housing to the newcomers. Without enough space in reception centers, the Dutch government in April began allowing asylum seekers to find their own housing with the financial support of the state but abandoned the program at year's end because of the administrative difficulties involved in organizing private accommodations for large numbers of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers with relatives and friends in the Netherlands were still permitted to live with them during the asylum procedure.

The Dutch government took other measures to cope with the housing shortage. In October, the government resorted to erecting army-style tent camps for some 900 asylum seekers in Ermelo and Heumensoord, near the reception center in Nijmegen. At the same time, the government also discontinued housing for asylum seekers whose cases it deemed inadmissible to the asylum procedure under the Dublin Convention.

Considerable criticism focused on the decision to end accommodation for Dublin Convention asylum seekers when the government applied the new policy to a group of 123 Bosnian asylum seekers arriving from Germany. The Dutch Refugee Council, an NGO, initially found housing for the Bosnians when the government denied them accommodation. After one month, however, the Dutch Refugee Council discontinued its support and sent the Bosnians to a government reception center, which again refused to admit them.

In an emergency parliamentary debate in November, the Deputy Justice Minister agreed to review the policy and provide assistance to "critical cases" such as pregnant women, children, and asylum seekers in need of medical assistance. Nevertheless, the deputy minister refused to consider the group of Bosnians for asylum, insisting on Germany's responsibility for them. The Salvation Army provided housing for the Bosnians following the Dutch Refugee Council's decision.


In December 1998, the Dutch parliament voted to remove deportation bans on the removal of rejected asylum seekers to northern Iraq, northern Sudan, and parts of Somalia. A December court decision rejecting the appeals of three Algerian asylum seekers could result in the deportation of rejected Algerian asylum seekers.

In 1998, the Netherlands introduced automatic bans on the return of rejected asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. It also banned the deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. The government continued its policy of not deporting and issuing provisional residence permits to rejected asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Burundi, and parts of Somalia.

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