Austere reception of safe country nationals does not work, and affects innocent people

Small groups of asylum seekers from so-called ‘safe countries cause too much inconvenience and put too much pressure on the system. Municipalities with asylum seekerscentres (azc) have been complaining about this to the national government for years. State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol of Justice and Security has now announced extra measures.

New asylum seekers from Morocco and Algeria, for example, are received separately from other asylum seekers, at two locations in the Netherlands. And that reception will become a lot more sober. The municipalities where the asylum seekers will be received, Westerwolde and Cranendonck, are pleased with the response. Those involved in assisting asylum seekers are extremely critical.

Living allowance

Normally, asylum seekers receive living money, food and other personal expenses. Under the new regulation, people from safe countries will no longer receive this. Meals and toiletries will be arranged for them at the reception centre. They also have to report to COA on a daily basis and are checked on entering and leaving the asylum seekers’ centre.

Their asylum procedure must be completed within four weeks. Excluded from the new policy are vulnerable asylum seekers, such as families with young children, lhbti‘ers or unaccompanied minors.

According to mayor Jaap Velema of Westerwolde, which includes the asylum seekers’ centre in Ter Apel, this will help to make the Netherlands less attractive to asylum seekers with little chance of obtaining a residence permit: “For the first time, something is happening at the front end of the asylum procedure. The nuisance-causing people from safe countries come here for the living money and a roof over their heads, but that is meant for the asylum seekers who really need it”

Asylum lawyer Flip Schรผller has his doubts about the plan: “Those who cause nuisance will continue to come anyway. They will be in a reception centre for a while, then they will go into illegality and then move on to France or Belgium. I understand very well that measures must be taken against nuisance asylum seekers from safe countries. But those should be order measures for people who make a mistake”

Trade union leader from Mongolia

The nuisance is mainly caused by groups of young men from Morocco and Algeria. They are guilty of shoplifting, burglary, aggression and intimidation, but sometimes also of more serious crimes. According to Jaap Velema, this reduces support for asylum seekers who do deserve residence permits: “Our community is too small to deal with this nuisance. If you want to solve the problem in the long run, you have to tackle it at the source”

Despite the fact that a country is considered safe by the Dutch government, it does not necessarily mean that someone‘s personal situation does not entitle them to asylum. “Take a trade union leader from Mongolia who is protesting against mining or a Christian from an Islamic country”, says Schรผller. “Some of them are severely traumatised. My concern is that these people will soon end up on the same pile as the group of scoundrels from Morocco, which is indeed a nuisance”

Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland agrees with Schรผller. In a written response, the aid organisation says: “A large group of people are now being segregated on the basis of nationality, while there are also people among them, such as political activists, who do have the right to asylum in the Netherlands”

According to them, the solution does not necessarily lie at the front of the asylum procedure, but at the back: “This proposal mainly illustrates the powerlessness of State Secretary Broekers-Knol to tackle the actual problem. Namely: eliminate the long waiting times for the asylum procedure and make good agreements on return with safe countries of origin”

That is what Schรผller also thinks: ‘It would only be really effective if asylum seekers with no chance of obtaining a residence permit knew that there was no point in coming here. As long as Member States at EU level are unable to jointly implement an effective return policy, the tide will remain in the water