Verdonk accused of failing to curb IND delays
22 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam City Council has accused Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk of failing to make good on assurances that the much-maligned immigration service IND would lift its game and speed up the issuing of residence permits.
22 March 2005
AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam City Council has accused Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk of failing to make good on assurances that the much-maligned immigration service IND would lift its game and speed up the issuing of residence permits.
Faced with the threat of a compensation claim, Verdonk promised Amsterdam in October that the IND would eliminate the sometimes chronic delays in processing permit applications for newly-arrived foreigners.
But Amsterdam Integration Alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb has informed the Liberal VVD minister by letter that the promised improvement has failed to materialise, news agency ANP reported on Monday.
Aboutaleb said delays are still causing problems with integration courses, with some 1,500 newcomers in Amsterdam waiting longer than six months for their residence permit.
The council threatened in September 2004 to submit a claim for damages that could amount to hundreds of thousands of euros. "We are now investigating whether the damages claims can be proved [to a legal standard]," Aboutaleb said in his latest letter to Verdonk.
The IND took over the responsibility for handling resident permit applications from the foreign police, Vreemdelingenpolitie, at the start of 2004. Computer problems during the transfer of files and duties led to a sharp rise in residence permit processing times. Just six permits were being processed each week, compared with an average of 75 prior to the computer problems in 2003.
Verdonk admitted last July that nationwide there were 59,000 outstanding residence permit applications lodged with the IND, 28,000 of which were delayed longer than six months. She promised that 90 percent of the applications older than six months would be processed by the end of 2004.
And she reassured Aboutaleb again in October that the arrears would be eliminated. She considered it feasible that issuing 75 processed applications per week was "reasonable and attainable" from December onwards.
In November and December, an average of 46 permits was processed each week, slightly more than half of the 2003 weekly average. But staff at municipal offices in the Dutch capital were assigned other tasks due to a lack of work or were forced to take leave.
A branch of a Regional Training Centre (ROC) in Amsterdam — which offers integration courses to new arrivals — was forced to close its doors for several weeks due to a lack of students.
Great uncertainty developed among foreigners and integration organisations were inundated with requests for information. Amsterdam Council took various measures enabling newcomers to start an integration programme via an accelerated procedure after the issuing of their permits.
For its part, the IND claims that the computer problems have since been resolved and last year's arrears have been eliminated. A spokesman said the immigration service is issuing more than 75 documents each week, newspaper 'De Telegraaf' reported.
He also said the delays were the council's doing because it failed to process and distribute a large amount of residence permits which had arrived in one delivery. The spokesman said the council took longer than the two to four week period allotted, resulting in foreigners waiting longer than necessary for their ID card.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news