Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - The Netherlands

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - The Netherlands , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 21 February 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 2002, the Netherlands hosted an estimated 17,200 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included about 9,400 asylum seekers awaiting initial decisions on their applications, an estimated 4,200 individuals with humanitarian protection, and about 3,600 persons granted asylum.

Some 18,700 asylum seekers filed first-time applications during 2002, about a 42 percent decrease from 2001. The largest numbers of asylum seekers came from Angola (1,900), Sierra Leone (1,600), Afghanistan (1,100), Iraq (1,000), and Iran (660).

Dutch authorities issued decisions on 34,300 applications during 2002, with an approval rate of about 11 percent.

An estimated 12 percent of the applicants received humanitarian status.

Asylum Procedure

Asylum seekers must apply at one of four registration centers where the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) conducts an interview to elicit the asylum seeker's identity, nationality, and travel route. The IND then determines whether or not the asylum seeker will be placed in the accelerated procedure or in the regular procedure. The IND places cases in the accelerated procedure it deems to be manifestly unfounded or if it believes the case does not require extensive research. Although the accelerated procedure is substantively the same as the regular one, it is usually completed within 48 hours. If the asylum seeker is placed in the regular procedure, he or she is sent to a Screening and Reception Center.

Next, the IND conducts a second more detailed interview to assess the claim. If the IND intends to deny the asylum request, it gives the applicant its intended decision with reasons, and the applicant has an opportunity, with the support of a legal advisor, to respond. The authorities must take the response into consideration when making a final decision. If the IND denies the claim anyway, the applicant may appeal to a judge and can remain in the Netherlands pending judicial review. However, if the asylum seeker is appealing a decision made in the accelerated procedure, he or she is not entitled to remain in the Netherlands.

The asylum seeker may also appeal the judge's decision. Such an appeal will not automatically suspend removal, but the Ministry of Justice may do so at its discretion.

If the IND approves the asylum request, the refugee receives an asylum permit valid for up to three years. The government can revoke the permit if it decides that conditions in the refugee's home country have improved sufficiently to allow repatriation. After three years, permit holders may obtain indefinite residence permits.

Generally, the authorities must issue a decision on an asylum application within six months. The IND may postpone the decision as many as six months to further investigate a case.

Alternative Forms of Protection

In addition to granting asylum, the government may grant "humanitarian protection" when the asylum seeker has been traumatized either as a direct victim of acts of violence by the authorities or if close relatives were victims, if there is no final decision on the asylum request within three years, or if the rejected asylum seeker faces a risk of torture in the sense of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) counts persons granted humanitarian protection the Netherlands among refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. This is because humanitarian protection may well be the only form of relief available in the Netherlands to victims of such past persecution as to give rise to compelling reasons for non-return, even if they may no longer have a well-founded fear of future persecution.

The Ministry of Justice can also grant "war refugee" status to specific groups of asylum seekers and issue a moratorium on decisions in their cases for up to one year beyond the period allowed to the IND. If the situation in the home country does not improve within that period, they then become eligible for the three-year status available to refugees. Because they remain asylum seekers, USCR also counts persons granted war refugee status among refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection.

Accelerated Procedures

According to non-governmental organizations, the accelerated procedure denies many asylum seekers a fair determination of their claims and subjects them to refoulement. Although the accelerated procedure was initially designed for manifestly unfounded cases, by mid-2002 it was applied to at least 60 percent of all cases in the Netherlands: triple the amount in past years. Many of the cases decided under this procedure were complex and unsuited for accelerated procedures, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW argues the criteria for the cases that should be in this procedure are vague and allow wide discretion to the IND. HRW documented cases where the IND used the accelerated procedure to process claims from elderly persons suffering health problems, mentally ill persons, persons who had survived torture or sexual violence, and other traumatized persons, as well as young children. They concluded that such persons could not reasonably present their claims within 48 hours.

Frequently the interviewer in the second interview takes a passive role, requiring the applicant to bring forward all the information about the claim. The limited time allowed makes it difficult for asylum seekers to gather the necessary evidence and documentary support for their claims.

Lawyers are not present during the interviews, but asylum seekers may have access to a legal aid lawyer, between the first and second interview, and after the second interview – although not necessarily the same lawyer. The first meeting with the lawyer is usually only for two hours and the second meeting is only for three hours, during which time the lawyer and asylum seeker must review and discuss the IND decision, often through translation.


Around 30 percent of children have their claims determined in the accelerated proceedings. According to HRW, interviews are adversarial in nature and not age-appropriate for young children who may already be traumatized. Although a guardian is appointed for unaccompanied children after the first interview, the guardian is not usually trained in asylum law or policy. The guardian is not normally with the child in the second interview, although the guardian may observe the proceeding by a video monitor.

Even if a child arrives alone, if he or she has relatives in the Netherlands – even if they are distant ones and regardless of their immigration status or familiarity with the child – authorities consider that child to be accompanied. If the authorities determine that a child is accompanied and that child's claim is rejected, it is the responsibility of the adult to accompany the child back to his or her country of origin or safe country outside of the Netherlands. The adult must also provide the child with shelter, guidance and care, or to arrange alternative care of the child outside of the Netherlands.

Readmission Agreements

In 2002, the Benelux countries prepared readmission agreements with Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic , France, Georgia, Hungary, India, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Nigeria, the Slovak Republic, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia. Of these, they signed readmission agreements with Hungary, the Slovak Republic, and Yugoslavia but the ratification procedure was not finalized at year's end.

Reception and Integration

Most asylum seekers remain in collective centers throughout the process. Repeat applicants for asylum, those appealing cases under the accelerated procedures, and those asylum seekers who are subject to transfer by the Dublin Convention do not receive accommodation or social assistance. The government makes exceptions to this rule for pressing humanitarian circumstances or if the Dublin referral claim is not timely. (See "Dublin Convention" box, p. 176.)

Asylum seekers receive a weekly allowance for food and clothing, free medical care, and legal support. Asylum seekers are allowed to work, but not during the first six months of their stay and only for periods of limited duration (like the summer season). Children are able to attend school. Asylum seekers must leave their reception center 28 days after notification of a first-instance asylum application denial, even if they are awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

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