Council of Europe official backs asylum policy

28th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

28 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government has done reasonably well in the way it has implemented its tough policy on asylum seekers, according to a representative of the Council of Europe (COE).

28 April 2005

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government has done reasonably well in the way it has implemented its tough policy on asylum seekers, according to a representative of the Council of Europe (COE).

The human rights body, made up of 46 countries, instigated an investigation following complaints of "mass deportations of asylum seekers" by the Netherlands.

Switzerland's Christian Democrat politician Rosemarie Zapfl-Helbling visited asylum centres in the Netherlands before drafting the report for the COE. Her findings will be discussed by the council before the end of the year.

Recounting her visit to a centre in Rotterdam, Zapfl-Helbling said the asylum seekers there told her their situation was difficult, but that the shelter was comfortable.

She also expressed surprise that asylum seekers in Utrecht were able to interact with the life of the city. "This made a big impression on me. They would not be accepted in Switzerland, where neighbours might set fire to their houses," she said. 

She spoke to several asylum seekers, including a Turkish woman who was being expelled. "Legally speaking, Turkey is a safe country. That the woman in reality feels isolated in her own country is something different".

The Swiss politician was full of praise for Dutch Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk. "The minister knows the situation very, very well. I believe she works well with her civil servants and the [asylum] organisations, although my impression is based on a short visit," she said.

Zapfl-Helbling plans to visit Britain and Switzerland to compare their asylum regimes to that operated by the Netherlands. But she does not expect the Dutch policies will differ significantly from other countries.

And pre-empting the evaluation later this year, she said a critical judgement of the Netherlands was unlikely.

"Naturally the situation for asylum seekers is bad, but the question is how the government can bridge the divide between those who want a tough approach and those who want a soft one. I have established that the Dutch government has done this well," she said.

Complaints about the Dutch asylum policy almost led to an emergency debate in the Council of Europe in April last year. When it emerged there was insufficient support to force a debate, Zapfl-Helbling was ordered to conduct an investigation instead.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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