5 May 2004
AMSTERDAM — Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk’s plan to deport 26,000 rejected asylum seekers in coming years is at risk as municipal councils battle with the government over the establishment of special expulsion detention centres.
Following the recent rejection by Dokkum and Eindhoven municipal councils to the establishment of an expulsion centre in their region, the construction of a deportation centre at Crailo has also been abandoned.
Minister Verdonk refused to meet conditions Laren and Hilversum municipal councils placed on the creation of the expulsion centre, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Wednesday. The centre will thus need to be located elsewhere.
But the refusal means that the government has failed to establish an expulsion centre at its three intended locations. The government’s deportation policy is thus facing mounting problems, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Thursday.
The expulsion centres play a crucial role in the deportation plan, but there is now serious doubt whether the government will meet its scheduled opening of the first expulsion centre, pencilled in for this summer.
To clear a backlog in asylum seeker applications with the immigration service IND, the Cabinet resolved earlier this year to grant a residence permit to about 2,300 long-term asylum seekers.
A further 26,000 were to be deported and despite protests, criticism from MPs and resistance from the association of Dutch municipalities VNG, the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, backed the plan in February.
Hilversum and Laren wanted to co-operate with the establishment of an expulsion centre, but had demanded almost 20 extra police officers. The councils also demanded funding for the education of asylum seeker children.
But a spokesman for the Justice Ministry — which includes the IND — said the councils were demanding too much and there was insufficient basis for continued talks. The ministry is now in talks with other, unnamed councils.
The unexpected decision to end talks with Laren and Hilversum comes despite the fact the Justice Ministry was drawing up a letter n Monday to inform the councils that part of their demands would be met. The Laren and Hilversum mayors have refused to comment on the sudden turnaround.
But Jan Nagel, the chairman of Leefbaar Hilversum — the largest party on the Hilversum Council — said on Monday he did not expect that the municipality would abandon its demands.
He said the conditions for the creation of the expulsion centre had been determined by Mayor Ernst Bakker in consultation with all party leaders. Nagel also said the demands were reasonable.
Meanwhile, the central asylum seeker authority given the task of setting up the expulsion centres, COA, said it was disappointed with the turn of events. COA is capable of quickly converting asylum seeker shelters into expulsion centres.
But experience has taught that municipal councils need much more time to work through the creation of an asylum seeker centre, especially if the local population is resisting its establishment.
The Employees Council of the COA has since requested management to be flexible with personnel who refuse to work in an expulsion centre.
A large number of COA workers could soon lose their jobs or be transferred due to the declining number of asylum seekers. Due to tougher regulations, the number of requests for asylum lodged with Dutch authorities has fallen from 43,560 in 2000 to just 13,402 last year.
The COA works council is also concerned that those who refuse on principle to work in an expulsion centre will be placed on a transfer list or laid off.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news