Events of 2009

Reviews during 2009 by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg and the UN Human Rights Committee identified a range of human rights concerns in the Netherlands, including problematic counterterrorism measures, and the lack of safeguards in and excessive length of asylum procedures.

The government in July ordered a comprehensive evaluation of counterterrorism measures, following the conclusions of a temporary commission that efforts to combat terrorism were poorly coordinated and arbitrary. Pending the outcome of the review, parliament suspended consideration of draft legislation that would restrict the movement of terrorism suspects and impose reporting restrictions on them.

The government in April announced measures to dissuade immigration deportees from filing last-minute applications, including ending the right to remain in the country during review of a repeat asylum request in the absence of new facts or circumstances. Also, all asylum seekers without identity papers will have to convince authorities they did not destroy them or their asylum request will be rejected. Separate draft reforms to the asylum law, laid before parliament in July, would extend the timeframe for evaluation of applications under the accelerated procedure from five to eight days in order to expand the number of fast-tracked claims. Hammarberg and the Human Rights Committee expressed concerns that the current procedure and the proposed changes did not give asylum seekers the opportunity to adequately support their claims.

In April the government announced it would no longer automatically grant temporary asylum to Somalis. The Dutch Council of State denied an Iraqi couple's request for temporary residency in May on the grounds that the situation in Iraq did not pose risks of random acts of violence. The decision followed a February judgment by the European Court of Justice on a referral of the same case, indicating that the EU directive on refugee recognition (Qualification Directive) does not require an applicant to prove he or she is specifically targeted when the level of indiscriminate violence in a country is sufficiently severe.

The government announced in October its intention to impose stricter language and integration tests for prospective spouses of Dutch residents from non-Western countries. The requirements have been criticized as discriminatory against Moroccan and Turkish migrants.

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