U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - The Netherlands

At the end of 2001, the Netherlands hosted more than 31,000 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included about 22,300 asylum seekers awaiting first-instance decisions on their applications, 888 persons granted asylum on the basis of the UN Refugee Convention, 7,180 individuals issued residence permits on humanitarian grounds, and 677 persons under temporary protection.

Some 32,579 asylum seekers filed first-time applications during 2001, a 25.8 percent decrease from 2000. The largest number of first-time asylum seekers came from Angola (4,111), Afghanistan (3,614), Sierra Leone (2,405), Iran (1,519), and Guinea (1,467).

Dutch authorities issued merits decisions on 25,716 applications during 2001, granting asylum on the basis of the Refugee Convention to 888 persons, a 3.5 percent approval rate. They also dismissed 14,598 cases as manifestly unfounded.

An additional 7,180 persons, or 28 percent of the applicants whose cases were decided on the merits, received residence permits on humanitarian grounds, while another 677 (2.6 percent) received temporary protection (conditional residence permits). The Netherlands denied refugee or subsidiary status to 16,971 persons who received merits evaluations of their claims.

During 2001, the Netherlands made 2,433 requests to European Union member states to accept cases under the provisions of the Dublin Convention (see box, p. 190); only 1,546 were accepted, however, and only 237 actually transferred. Other states made 894 claims on the Netherlands; of these, 567 were accepted and 3 transferred.

Asylum Procedure

A new Aliens Act , intended to shorten and streamline the asylum procedure, came into force on April 1. Under the new legislation, asylum seekers must lodge their application at one of four registration centers, where the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) conducts a screening interview of the applicant, issuing an admissibility decision within 48 working hours. If the claim is deemed inadmissible, the asylum seeker may appeal, but may be deported while the appeal is pending.

If the claim is found admissible, the applicant undergoes a second, more detailed interview, which forms the basis for assessment of the claim. The asylum seeker receives a report of the second interview and is given the opportunity to correct any aspect of the report he or she deems inaccurate.

If the IND intends to deny the asylum request, the asylum seeker receives written notification of this intention, and is given the opportunity, with the support of a legal advisor, to submit a response, which the authorities take into consideration when making a final decision. If the decision to deny the claim is unchanged, the asylum seeker has the opportunity to appeal to a judge, and is permitted to remain in the Netherlands pending the judicial review. While the asylum seeker may lodge a final appeal against a judge's negative decision, he or she is no longer automatically protected against deportation, although deportation suspension may be granted at the discretion of the Ministry of Justice.

Protection is granted to asylum applicants on one of four grounds: the Refugee Convention; the European Convention on Human Rights; other humanitarian considerations; or the need for group-based protection. If the IND approves the asylum request, the refugee receives a temporary asylum permit, valid for up to three years. The permit can be revoked if the government 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.

The new asylum permit confers the same package of benefits and entitlements upon each asylee, in contrast to the varying benefits that accompanied each of the three statuses granted in previous years. According to the Dutch government, these variations in status often had the consequence of encouraging extra litigation from refugees who wanted to obtain the status that afforded them the best possible benefits.

Generally, the authorities must issue a decision on an asylum application within six months (in 2001, a decision was issued in 80 percent of all cases within six months). In the case of war refugees, however, the Ministry of Justice can issue a moratorium for up to one year on asylum decisions for a specific group. If the situation in the refugees' home country does not improve within that period, they then become eligible for the three-year status available to other refugees. On December 14, the IND suspended decisions on applications from Afghans for a two-month period.

Restrictive Practices

In response to a sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers arriving in the Netherlands in recent years, the government announced a more restrictive policy in May. Under the new policy, greater efforts will be made to repatriate rejected child asylum seekers, many of whom were formerly permitted to remain in the country on humanitarian grounds. Child asylum seekers who do not cooperate with authorities in determining their identity or the possibility of repatriation will not be given a temporary residence permit, thus rendering them ineligible for eventually obtaining a permanent residence permit. Asylum seekers who are 15 years old upon arrival in the Netherlands will lose the right to residence after they turn 18, and will be repatriated. Some 5,900 unaccompanied minors – 18 percent of all asylum seekers – applied for asylum in the Netherlands last year, declining from 6,705 in 2000. The number of Chinese minors seeking asylum dropped significantly, from 942 in 2000 to 344 in 2001.

Reception and Integration

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

Asylum seekers receive a weekly allowance for food and clothing, free medical care, and legal support. Children are able to attend school. Asylum seekers must leave their reception center 28 days after being notified of a first-instance asylum application denial, even if they are awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

At the end of 2001, about 70,000 persons lived in reception centers, while 15,000 lived in alternative housing. An estimated 95,000 reception spaces will be needed by 2003, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Court and Government Decisions

Between June and August, the government decided that asylum seekers from Angola, Chechnya, Congo-Kinshasa, northern Iraq, and Somalia, most of whom were under temporary protection or had pending asylum applications, could be repatriated, based on new assessments of conditions in these countries and regions.


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