Dutch cities poised to resist deportation plan
27 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — City councils and churches across the Netherlands might continue offering shelter to rejected asylum seekers who recently failed to gain a residence permit under a government amnesty scheme. Such a move by local authorities would breach an agreement with Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk.
City councils have demanded that Minister Verdonk ensure rejected asylum seekers who want to return to their land of origin, but are unable to do so, are given emergency accommodation, an NOS news report said. But they have also warned there is insufficient capacity to shelter such refugees.
The concerns come after the Cabinet approved a plan last Friday from Minister Verdonk to give a residence permit to 2,300 asylum seekers. But the government also agreed to prepare for the deportation of 26,000 others, which will occur over a three-year period.
The amnesty was offered to clear a massive backlog in the immigration service (IND). Thousands of people have been waiting for five years or more to have their applications for asylum assessed. Many have learned Dutch, fully integrated into society and had children.
But with thousands of refugees facing deportation, the large cities are concerned that rejected asylum seekers will end up on the street.
Utrecht Council claims that city authorities had made good verbal agreements with Minister Verdonk ensuring that the government will provide shelter to asylum seekers who cannot return to their land of origin.
But the agreement was not included in a letter sent by the minister to municipal authorities last week. Utrecht Alderman Hans Spekman claims the letter was unclear and he accused Verdonk of failing to live up to the agreement reached with city councils.
Amsterdam and The Hague have the same concerns as Utrecht and if the deportation policy proves to be ineffective, The Hague has said it will continue sheltering asylum seekers, breaching the agreements with the government.
The mayors of the Netherlands’ four largest cities — Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht — will discuss the matter on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Council of Churches (Raad van Kerken) has also said it expects problems with the deportation policy, warning for great unrest when the government actually starts with its expulsions.
It said the public and volunteer helpers will not accept the deportations, particularly when an asylum seeker or refugee family that has been accepted by the community is deported.
They claim that asylum seekers who cannot return to the homeland — because they do not have the correct travel documents, for example — will request assistance from churches and other social work organisations. But these organisations also fear they have insufficient capacity.
The council of churches has thus urged minister Verdonk to bend the amnesty regulation to prevent “distressing” cases, news agency ANP reported.
As it presently stands, the minister’s plan means that if asylum seekers can prove they cannot return to their country of origin, they will gain a residence permit. But refugee organisations claim it is often difficult to prove if a refugee cannot return.
The deportation plan states that the first refugees must be deported within eight weeks and the Dutch Refugee Council (VluchtelingenWerk Nederland) has been contacted by members of the public angered by the government’s plan.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news