Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 08:57 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Netherlands

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Netherlands , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 22 November 2017]
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 2003, the Netherlands hosted an estimated 14,600 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included about 8,400 asylum seekers awaiting initial decisions on their applications, some 5,100 individuals with humanitarian protection, and about 1,100 persons granted asylum.

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.

Some 13,400 asylum seekers filed first-time applications during 2003, about a 28 percent decrease from 2002 (18,700 were filed in 2002). The largest numbers of asylum seekers came from Iraq (3,500), Iran (550), Afghanistan (490), and Somalia (440).

Dutch authorities issued decisions on some 19,200 applications during 2003, with an approval rate of about 2 percent.

An estimated 14 percent of the applicants received humanitarian status.

New Developments

The government approved amendments to the Foreigner's Act allowing persons with temporary residence permits, including asylum seekers, to work without first obtaining a work permit.

In January, the government stopped granting residence permits to asylum seekers who, because of government delays, had not received decisions on their asylum claims within three years.

The government opened two deportation centers at Schipol and Rooterdam airports to hold hundreds of rejected asylum seekers – including children – pending expulsion. Human rights groups and refugee organizations called the centers prisons, and urged they be used only as a last resort.

In September, the Lower Chamber of parliament approved a limited amnesty for 2,200 asylum seekers, and granted them permanent residence because of government delays of over five years on their cases.

Authorities also decided that rejected asylum seekers from Srbrenica – the Muslim enclave in Bosnia-Herzegovina that Dutch soldiers failed to protect in 1995 – would only be returned if they could resettle in their original municipality and were not seriously traumatized.

In September, the government announced it was restricting family unification, increasing the sponsorship age from 18 to 21, as well as increasing the income requirement from 100 percent to 120 percent of the minimum wage level.

In July the government decided that it would suspend decisions on asylum applications and expulsions of Iraqis and Liberians until February 1, 2004. The government signed a tripartite agreement with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Afghanistan to assist in returning up to 40,000 Afghan refugees voluntarily, while continuing to host those who wished to stay until April 2004.

Child Asylum Seekers

A number of children's rights organizations, including UNICEF, accused the government of violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Dutch officials reportedly questioned children as young as four about their journey to the Netherlands and their motives for coming, and children of illegal immigrants had insufficient healthcare, education and child welfare services. The Dutch government changed its policy of excluding former child soldiers under Article 1F of the UN Refugee Convention if they were below age 15. In addition, a second opinion on age determinations, where necessary, is now generally required.

Readmission Agreements

The government signed memoranda of understanding for return with Congo-Kinshasa, Dubai, Afghanistan, Guinea, Jordan (regarding admission to Iraq), and signed re-admission treaties with Bulgaria, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.


A court in the city of Apeldoorn ruled that shops could not longer post signs allowing only one asylum seeker at the time to enter, on the grounds that such signs were racist.

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