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City of Utrecht Undermines National Asylum Law: A Humanitarian Initiative

Background

On April 1, 2001, the Dutch government cut back support to asylum seekers in a new law. The New Aliens Legislation mandated that after receiving a final negative response to an asylum application, immigrants would only be allowed to remain in asylum seekers' centers for twenty-eight days. Less than two months later, on the 15th of May, the city of Utrecht voted in favor of an initiative that undermined this new law, establishing shelters for certain groups of asylum seekers. Although the shelters have not been built and exist only on the pages of a planning document from the Utrecht municipal government, the initiative sent a powerful message that laws made on the national level may be unsuitable in meeting humanitarian needs on a local level. Utrecht took its lead from other municipalities in the Netherlands who have implemented similar initiatives. Turning asylum seekers out of shelters is effectively pushing them onto the street. Local humanitarian organizations coupled with aldermen have responded to this situation, creating the Utrecht Initiative, a plan for temporary shelters, dubbed by the media as the "bread, bed and bath" plan. 

The Asylum Procedures in the Netherlands

Every asylum seeker who arrives in the Netherlands has a different experience. The first determinant of an asylum seekers future is returned between 24 and 48 hours after arrival. Asylum seekers whose requests are denied must leave the Netherlands immediately. The others are transferred to a "relief and research center" of the Relief for Asylum-Seekers Central Organ (COA). The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) carefully checks each request for domicile. If the IND rejects the request, the asylum-seeker can object but if the decision on the objection is also negative, the asylum seeker may appeal in court. If the decision of the court is negative, the asylum seeker must leave. Asylum seekers who remain in the Netherlands during the procedure move to an asylum seekers' center pending the final decision. If the final decision is positive, the asylum seeker gets a residence permit and is eligible for regular housing. If the appeal is denied, the asylum seeker must leave the country by law. While the asylum process seems to have many opportunities to appeal, less than one in four people who seek asylum in the Netherlands are granted status. According to a Press release from the Council of Ministers "acceptance percentage decreased [from 1999] in 2000 to around 17%"[1].

The New Aliens Legislation (April 1, 2001)

According to the Ministry of Justice, the main aim of the New Aliens Legislation is to realize a shorter asylum procedure and provide more clarity about the rights and obligations of asylum seekers. In the law, rejected and ‘removable’ asylum seekers are being held responsible for leaving the country. Four weeks after the final negative decision all governmental support in terms of shelter and aid will be terminated. However, the New Aliens Act upholds precedents in which asylum seekers may be eligible for a residence permit on the basis of international legislation. The Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights articulate that for urgent reasons of a humanitarian nature or grounds that repatriation would involve exceptional hardship a person shall be granted asylum. The main amendments in the new law relate to the introduction of a residence permit for a twenty-eight days, the abolition of the objection procedure, and the introduction of a right of appeal to the Council of State. The New Aliens Act introduces a more comprehensive form of decision rejecting applications, under which further reception facilities can be withheld and a rejected asylum seeker can be ordered to leave the Netherlands. 

The Utrecht Initiative 

The consequences of the New Aliens Legislation catalyzed refugee organizations and municipalities into action. They rang the emergency bell, overwhelmed by thousands of asylum seekers who will be expelled to live on the streets, finding themselves in dead-end circumstances. “This will lead to an increasing pressure on local organizations and the municipal government to make sure temporary reception shelters are provided for those finding themselves in deplorable circumstances"[2]. This argument taken from the Utrecht Initiative elucidates the ideology behind the proposal: the city wants to help relieve the plight of people turning to live on the street. The argument continues: "inhuman circumstances will exist but will also threaten social order and safety"[2].

The initiative passed by a majority vote of the Utrecht Board of Mayor and Alderman set aside funding for the establishment of 50 shelters for 125 people per year. The shelters would provide temporary lodging with only basic provisions for four to five months. While the Utrecht Initiative acknowledges the plight of rejected asylum seekers, the new initiative is aimed at assisting three specific groups: asylum seekers who are currently in process of filing a second claim, who live legally in the Netherlands such as Dublin Claimants, and who are willing to cooperate but unable to return home. The latter group is estimated at one hundred people and the former groups twenty-five, according to the Research of the Service of Societal Development of the city of Utrecht. The Utrecht Initiative was passed with a maximum budget of NLG 301,125 however a deadline for making the shelters operational has not been set. 

Although the municipal government approved the Utrecht Initiative, the non-profit Christian foundation INLIA (International Network of Local Initiatives with Asylum Seekers), developed the blueprint for local reception shelters.  John Van Tilborg, the director of INLIA, says that the ideology of the Utrecht Initiative came from INLIA's experience with the realities of the duration of the asylum seeking process. He states that the 28-day limit established by the new national law is not realistic. For example, issuing a refugee a laissez-passer to travel may take a few months without well-documented identity papers. The majority of asylum seekers in the Netherlands come from countries that lack a viable infrastructure, which makes getting necessary documents and repatriation nearly impossible. A request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Lebanon for valid identity papers takes ten to twenty-four weeks in Van Tilborg's experience. Furthermore, Van Tilborg believes the utilitarian component of helping to guarantee public order and safety bolstered the humanitarian component of the Utrecht proposal ultimately ending in success. Currently, INLIA has conversations going with 70 municipalities of which approximately 30 are in or just passed the decision making process like the city of Utrecht. In 10 municipalities temporary shelters have already been operationalized. Van Tilborg enthusiastically describes the success of the temporary shelter model, which has "by far exceeded its initial expectations"[3].   

The National Return Policy: "Hospitality Within Limits"[4]

The Ministry of Justice estimates that the April asylum law will put approximately 10,000 people on the street in following years [5]. However, the spokeswoman for this ministry, Maud Bredero, asserts that municipal initiatives to provide shelter for rejected asylum seekers like in Utrecht are terrible evasions of the law, undermining national return policy. Bredero insists that providing shelter to asylum seekers after the federally mandated twenty-eight days sends the wrong message to rejected asylum seekers: that they are welcome in the Netherlands. 

“The Central Body for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) is the nationally sanctioned institution for proving shelter and support to asylum seekers"[5]. Therefore Bredero does not see the need for additional municipal assistance, especially for groups that have no right to shelter according national law. The main purpose of the new Aliens Legislation was enacted to encourage rejected asylum seekers to return to their home countries. According to the newspaper Volkskrant, State-Secretary of Asylum Affairs Kalsbeek believes the municipalities should actively cooperate towards this objective. She understands that there is resistance to the stricter return policy on the municipal level, but adds that a mentality change will take time. Kalsbeek maintains that as long as a rejected asylum seeker receives shelter, he or she will not return.

The Dutch government actively and openly pursues a "return policy" with respect to asylum seekers. The government seeks voluntary return as a first course of action. The Ministry of Justice collaborates with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, providing assistance to the International Organization of Migration (IOM). However, the Dutch return policy stresses that return is primarily the individual responsibility of the asylum seeker. According to the Ministry of Justice, a return policy has many advantages: the scarce relief center space is reserved for desperate cases, there is clarity for asylum seekers, Dutch society and others intending on seeking asylum in the Netherlands. The Ministry believes that an emphasis on return policy will send the message that economic refugees cannot be admitted

“Every asylum seeker that reveals his or her real identity will get travel documents to his country of origin"[5], according to Bredero. Furthermore, the Ministry of Justice is vehement that there is no valid claim for extending services to rejected asylum seekers, for the claims process successfully ascertains which claimants have legitimate asylum requests. Bredero maintains that the Dutch government follows the Geneva Convention guidelines for granting asylum and that the government embraces only "real refugees". However, the Justice department emphasizes that there are many fraudulent claims. Bredero recalls an incident in which refugees claiming to be from Sudan sought asylum in the Netherlands. Scrutinizing of the mother tongue of these refugees revealed that they were actually Nigerian, and only claimed Sudanese identity in order to increase their chances of gaining asylum. 

Laws that shape the lives of asylum seekers are written by the national government in The Hague, but the COA implements them. Therefore, after the ratification of the April 2001 law, COA workers were responsible for the forced removal of asylum seekers from the shelters. According to Desirée Wilhelm, Press Officer of the COA-headquarters in Rijswijk, the COA does not want to give a value judgement about the Utrecht initiative and similar proposals. According to Wilhelm, the new laws have resulted in evacuations of approximately 200 people from AZC nationwide. More evacuations will follow. Whether or not COA employees agree with the new laws, they aim to prepare asylum seekers for life beyond the shelters. After the first negative appeal, all initiatives and activities to facilitate Dutch integration like language courses are stopped as a message to the asylum seekers that their future will probably not be in the Netherlands. Furthermore, activities after the first negative appeal are more focused on return. Skills such as computer proficiency are emphasized in order to equip asylum seekers with marketable skills when they return home. 

While official government rhetoric criticizes the action of the Utrecht municipality, there is some evidence that the Hague's hard-line stance may be softening. In recent months, informal meetings of the State-Secretary of Justice and representatives of municipalities and provinces have taken place, focusing on the problems that arise due to diminished support for rejected asylum seekers. During these meetings, the role of the national government, the local authorities, and the humanitarian aid organizations in assisting asylum seekers has been scrutinized. This collaborative effort reflects the shift away from the National governments unilateral approach. On 28th of June 2001, there will be a follow-up meeting with the State-Secretary Kalsbeek of Asylum Affairs and a delegation of the Union of Dutch Municipalities (NvG) including alderman Spekman from Utrecht. During this meeting the sheltering and return of rejected asylum seekers, Dublin Claimants and repeated asylum seekers will be on the agenda. 

The Dilemma Unfolds: The City of Utrecht Takes a Stand

On May 15, the municipal government of Utrecht broke national law. While the Utrecht initiative may have received media attention for turning its back on The Hague, the proposal is not entirely heretical. The municipality voted to create shelters for asylum seekers who remain legally in the Netherlands, not for asylum seekers whose claims have been denied but have not repatriated. Alderman Spekman of the Labor Party, who spearheaded the initiative, believes it is unfair to force legal asylum seekers out on the street when they have no plausible way of providing for themselves.  Claimants whose cases are still being processed or are awaiting assistance with repatriation or return to a third country are not legally allowed to work. While recognizing that the Utrecht initiative undermines the policy of State-Secretary Kalsbeek, Spekman asserts such a consequence was not his intent. He admits that his main objective is to change national policy that conflicts with the new initiative. Alderman Spekman centers his argument on the plight of two specific groups who are currently denied shelter after twenty-eight days under national law. The first group are the "Dublin Claimants", who passed through another European country en route to the Netherlands and must await approval to return there. Spekman asserts that finalizing the procedure in a "Dublin claim" can take up to nine months. The second group consists of those engaged in a second asylum request, which can take years. For Spekman, forcing the aforementioned groups out of the shelters is effectively punishing law-abiding people. 

Van Tilborg of INLIA thinks that Spekman and other municipalities with similar arguments have a strong case in lobbying the national government to provide shelters for all legal asylum seekers without a status. He doubts whether any lawmaker will be able to site any plausible rational for not providing shelter to people who are legally allowed to be in the Netherlands. Furthermore, Van Tilborg argues that the establishment of shelters such as those mandated by the Utrecht initiative will actually help the national government to promote a return policy. Van Tilborg points to the Dublin Claimants to elucidate his point. Due to a capacity problem in the asylum seekers' centers it was decided in 1998 to stop the aid to Dublin claimants. Since then, INLIA has taken care of 800 Dublin claimants on a national level and is therefore intimately familiar with the process. Of the 800 Dublin claimants, 93% of these claimants finished their procedure, returning to another European country, 5% left on voluntary basis and less than 2% left with an unknown destination. Van Tilborg relates that logistically, it can be very difficult to contact the claimants to help facilitate the return process. Making shelters to house asylum seekers allows aid workers to contact their clients, expediting the process. Van Tilborg continues that although this is only one example of a benefit of the Utrecht Initiative, it is also in the best interest of the national government and the municipalities to try to limit the number of people living on the street.

Although the Utrecht Initiative passed by a majority vote of the Board of Alderman, the decision was not unanimous. Aldermen Van Zanen and Verhulst voted against it. "Rules have to be executed"[6] Alderman Verhulst asserted in explaining his decision. He believes that the municipality should not make laws that obstruct the intent of national laws. However, Mr. Verhulst acknowledges that the April 1st policy has greatly elevated the number of people on the street, which then affects the municipalities. According to an estimate made by his party, the Christian Democratic Party, an additional 250,000 people will be homeless. Furthermore, Alderman Verhulst acknowledges that although most churches favor the Utrecht initiative and he is a member of an inherently religious party, rules should be "made in The Hague"[6]. Mr. Verhulst has faith that the asylum claims process will successfully distinguish between people who "really need help from war torn countries"[6] and those who are solely here for economic reasons and therefore have no legitimate claim.      

The police in the city of Utrecht believe that new Initiative is a “good plan”[7] because it is humanitarian. According to Mr. Jens, the official Spokesman for the city of Utrecht, the police department hopes that the Utrecht Initiative will help relieve the conditions of asylum seekers living precariously on the streets. The Spokesman lauded the proposal for focusing on asylum seekers who are willing but unable to return to their country of origin, asserting that “these people should really be helped”[7]. Also, he noted that there should be increased funding for police sensitivity training in terms of dealing with asylum seekers. 

The police department hopes national laws, as opposed to separate city initiatives, will help the treatment of asylum seekers to be standardized. In addition, Mr. Jens expressed doubt that the majority of asylum seekers would cooperate with the Utrecht Initiative because it is primarily targeted at those people who wish to be repatriated. In his experience, Mr. Jens has found that people seeking asylum do not wish to be repatriated. Therefore, he maintains that the initiative will have only a limited impact, for those who want to stay permanently in the Netherlands will be skeptical of the initiative, believing that the government is trying to control them. 

Two to three times a week the police are called to the asylum seekers' center in Utrecht to intervene in small conflicts. Small fights, petty crimes, drug abuse and car burglaries are the most common cases which bring asylum seekers in contact with the law. When an asylum seeker is arrested, he/she will undergo the same procedure as anyone who breaks the law. However, in the case of repeat offenders, the case will be expedited so the person can be removed from the Netherlands and their temporary status will not be extended.   

Mr. Jens asserts that the police support the Utrecht proposal. Personally, he believes that the onus should be on the national government, “because it is a national problem and not just the city of Utrecht”[7]. In the dilemma of whether the national or the municipal government should assist legal asylum seekers there are compelling arguments on either side. 

The Impact: Perspectives From Humanitarian Organizations

In addition to the police, humanitarian organization workers and church workers are the people who know the realities facing asylum seekers. They are overwhelmingly in favor of the Utrecht Initiative and generally agree that the national government must make laws, which are more humane.

Margreet Jenezon works out of a cluttered room in the basement of a small building. She works for the organization STIL (Steunpunt Illegalen Utrecht), an information and resource office for illegals. While the majority of STIL's work is facilitating "black work" for illegals, it also helps them find shelter and secure basic medical necessities. Furthermore, STIL offers support to asylum seekers through legal advice, paying legal fees, and helping to attain skilled and experienced lawyers. The organization is a non-profit, accepting private donations from individuals and churches, but prohibits structural funding for fear of a biased agenda.

Mrs. Jenezon asserts that the situation of illegals, many of which are rejected asylum seekers, turned out onto the street is "really crazy"[8]. During the week she was interviewed, she knew of three women with babies who were trying to fend for themselves on the streets in Utrecht. Her experience has lead Jenezon to believe that motivation for the Utrecht proposal was good, but woefully inadequate. She believes that the majority of asylum seekers will not be granted asylum or meet the criteria for the shelters. She acknowledges that "normally, they don't want to cooperate [in repatriation]". However, asylum seekers will "play the game" of pretending to want to return home in order to enhance their claim as well as the privilege of shelter and support. Jenezon believes that asylum seekers crucially need legal and medical attention, but the "housing thing is most difficult". She reiterates the fact that even those who will qualify for the temporary shelter will need additional assistance, for both second asylum claims and Dublin claims can last for a year. However, Mrs. Jenezon is pleased that the municipality of Utrecht is trying anything at all, saying the initiative is a "good start", but that the reserved amount is not enough to meet the essential needs of health care and good attorneys. Concerning the dilemma between municipal and government support, Jenezon weighs in decisively on one side: "They must be doing something on a national level on the problem of refugees"[8].

T. Bedaux, interim-director of the Dutch Refugee Council (Vluchtelingenwerk) of Utrecht, argues that the current asylum policy of the Netherlands is mainly focused at reducing the inflow of asylum seekers. She asserts that emergency situations are unpredictable and devastating so that a strict asylum policy is not appropriate. Ms. Bedaux believes that the policy needs to be flexible  in order to soften the blow of violent ethnic conflicts on civilians.

The Dutch Refugee Council cheers the proposal of Utrecht municipality. "Emergency shelters are just a temporary solution", judges Bedaux, "but it offers refugees in a danger zone at least a possibility to survive"[9]. However, the Council is skeptical about the number of asylum seekers that fall within the criteria for the temporary shelters. The municipality thinks it will be about 125 a year, Bedaux think this number would be higher. 

Gerard Luiten works voluntarily with members of his church and community to support asylum seekers. His church was unpleasantly surprised when alderman Verhulst of the Christian Democratic Party voted against the Utrecht Initiative. In his experience, Luiten has seen that the asylum procedure can take three to five years. During this time, asylum seekers face dire circumstances without government support. "For example, it is not unthinkable that people without income and housing will be forced to look into illegal practices"[9], asserts Luiten. He also knows of a four-room apartment that is inhabited by five families. He believes that allowing asylum seekers to work while their claims are being processed will reduce the crime rate. Luiten says that most asylum seekers he has been in contact do not want to repatriate after their final rejection. He hopes that the national government will follow the example set by the Utrecht Initiative to support asylum seekers in the Netherlands.

The Issue of Return

Mrs. Van Breemen has worked with asylum seekers for twelve years. For eleven years, she worked for the COA but has recently begun work for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM is an international intergovernmental organization working to "provide humane responses to migration challenges"[10] in many different capacities. Mrs. Van Breemen primarily works to facilitate the voluntary return of refugees in the Netherlands to their home country. She works on a case by case basis in order to help refugees get documents, make travel arrangements and thrive once repatriated.

Mrs. Van Breemen has mixed feelings about the Utrecht Initiative. On one hand, she believes that it is the responsibility of the government to help people once their request for asylum has been denied but she also acknowledges that there are many problems with this proposal. To begin with, she states, "you can never help everybody"[11]. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to define a refugee. She recalls the story of a girl from Liberia who was seeking asylum in the Netherlands. The young woman had no remaining family in Liberia, and if she were to return she would have to fend for herself. Mrs. Van Breemen knows that it is impossible to ascertain which refugees can and which refugees cannot feasibly return home. 

For refugees who wish to return home in earnest, the twenty eight days is most often too long, according to Mrs. Van Breemen. Therefore, the Utrecht Initiative may be a misappropriation of funding, for it is aimed at supporting those who may not need as much assistance. However, there are certain exceptions. Mrs. Van Breemen knows that repatriating a person from Iraq can never be accomplished in less than three months. There is no feasible way for a person to fly to Iraq, so the IOM must get a laissez-passer for the applicant to cross the Turkish border. From there, the person must make the trip overland. 

Through her experience, Mrs. Van Breemen  has come to believe that the asylum process in the Netherlands is "a good system", effectively granting asylum to those people that have legitimate claims. She believes that the government must devote more time and resources to making the follow-up more humane. She has personally seen the effects on people when they languish in asylum seeker centers, and argues that it is not humane for people to remain there while they are appealing their case.

Basically, as a person who works to repatriate refugees who volunteer, Mrs. Van Breemen sees that the biggest need is to help those who are waiting for appeals on their cases, for people who wish to return home are usually able to do so. 

Amena: A Somali Story (The name of the woman has been changed  per her request)

"It [Mogadishu] was a savage place. Everything had been shot up, nothing worked, everything of value had been looted, and nobody was in charge. …The hobbled predicament was reflected in the number of land mine victims, men, women and children pulling themselves around on crutches…Nine out of ten Somalis were unemployed…"[12] Mark Bowden described the situation in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, in his non-fiction account of the American involvement there.

Amena is a soft-spoken woman, wearing a white cloth covering her head in accordance with Muslim tradition. Six years ago, she left war torn Somalia for Kenya. At seventeen years old, she flew from Africa to France and then took a train to the Netherlands. She tells her story in a calm, even tone- a story which has been told countless times. At the Dutch border, Amena told her story for the first time at the Reception Center. Like the majority of asylum seekers, her story was deemed valid enough for her to pass onto the registration center. The next day, she advanced to the next level, and was moved to a Relief and Research Center. Shortly thereafter, she was again advanced to an asylum seeker center. But Amena's rapid progression toward receiving asylum was a fleeting illusion. Six years later, she is still "in procedure". She has no status and is ineligible for government support.

Amena stayed in the asylum seekers' center in Utrecht for four years. During that time, she made friends who came and went, some getting status, some turning to illegal work, and a precarious existence. Very few returned home. Since arriving in the Netherlands, Amena has learned to speak impeccable Dutch, the foreign syllables uttered in her quiet tone. She is one year shy of completing her university diploma in business. In March 2000, she moved to the student housing where the COA pays for her room. Moving out of the asylum center was a great relief. Without a status, life in these centers is highly restricted. Amena is not even able to rent a movie in the Netherlands. Most of the financial and emotional help she has gotten has been from voluntary church workers.

A third lawyer is now representing Amena. According to Gerard Luiten, who has helped with her case since she arrived, the first two lawyers were corrupt. The first lawyer "didn't do anything"[13] and the second lawyer "only liked the girls"[13]. Over the years, she has dealt with "a lot of disappointment"[14]. There are people with the same case who have had status for years. "If your case is handled quickly, then you have security. If not, it is terrible". Amena believes that the IND intentionally drags its feet on cases as a strategy to encourage asylum seekers to leave. Life in the Netherlands "is so sour, so you want to go".  

According to Amena, the asylum process is "not fair". Some people are rejected for illegitimate reasons. She is now in procedure for the third time, trying to gain asylum on medical grounds. In order to do so, the Dutch government told her that she would need to return to Somalia to get a permit. However, returning to Somalia is unsafe for Amena, whose family was once in power. Her family is considered enemies of the present administration. Furthermore, there is no Dutch embassy in Mogadishu.  

For Amena and other asylum seekers, it is difficult to fit into Dutch culture. The culture is foreign, and in general, the people have a negative attitude towards foreigners. Amena believes that many Dutch people are xenophobic for selfish reasons, asserting that the Netherlands is a small country and is already too densely populated. Other people do not know of the plight of refugees in the Netherlands. They "do not see it in their daily lives and therefore it does not affect them"[14]. 

When asked why she cannot return to Somalia now that the war is over, Amena uses careful words to explain what she has undoubtedly described innumerable times before. Although Somalia has been deemed safe by the Dutch government, Amena thinks otherwise. The president lives in the south of the country and has been unable to successfully consolidate power. There is no police presence and citizens defend their property with personal weapons and try to enforce a rule of law. For Amena, there are other, personal reasons why returning to Somalia would be "very difficult". After leaving home, she lost track of her family, and would be returning to the country alone. Furthermore, she simply states, "I have integrated here. I feel like I belong here in the Netherlands".

Amena describes her future as "insecure". Until her claim is rejected or accepted, she will continue to live a precarious existence. Next year, she will graduate with a degree in business, but will be unable to work because she does not have a status. "To stay in the Netherlands, you need a status… without a status, you don't exist". 

The Broader Perspective

Along with other municipalities, Utrecht has taken a stand to promote the human rights of asylum seekers. The municipalities are sending the message that they will not enforce national policy, which is contrary to their ideals. Dutch municipalities are not alone in condemning the national government for mandating a strict return policy. The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Ruud Lubbers (the former Dutch Prime Minister) berated European Union countries for their hostile attitude toward refugees, "'where the tendency is 'the less the better'"[15]. On June 22, 2001, the day established as international refugee day, he asserted, "It becomes a numbers game: reduce arrivals at all costs'"[15]. The high commissioner also explained how a "donor fatigue" had set in among wealthier countries after the well-publicized crisis in Kosovo and Bosnia had ended. However, the reality is that there are 21 million refugees worldwide - one in 284 people in the world is a refugee. Mr. Lubbers asserts that aiding these people is a "'moral and legal obligation, rather than an optional act of charity'"[15].

For most people, it is hard to look at images of people fleeing war-torn countries, walking in slow, snaking lines, laden with their belongs. However, in the Western world, these realities are remote and difficult to conceptualize. Sympathy turns to animosity and neglect when asylum seekers arrive in the diaspora. The asylum policy in the Netherlands is now heavily focused on the return policy, as evidenced by the New Aliens Act. Amena sums up the Dutch sentiments toward asylum seekers as unwelcoming based on the ideology that the Netherlands "is so small, it is full". Mr. Lubbers asserts that this sentiment is reinforced  "'when some public figures in far richer countries treat asylum seekers like a modern-day version of the plague rat'"[15]. 

Whether or not the Dutch government decides to change its national asylum policy, it is imperative that asylum seekers are treated humanely while in the Netherlands. They must be provided with the basic necessities and live in an environment that preserves their dignity. The Utrecht Initiative acknowledges that although asylum seekers may not have the same protection under Dutch law, they should still enjoy basic human rights. Hopefully, Utrecht's vision will inspire the national government to enact a more humane asylum policy.

References

Notes:

Press Releases Ministry of Justice On 1 April 2000, the New aliens act enters into force, dd. 28/03/01

Municipal document: New Asylum Legislation and rejected asylum seekers for the Board of Major and Aldermen (Notitie Nieuwe Vreemdelingenwer en uitgeprocedeerden), May 15, 2001

Interviews

J. van Tilborg, Director of International Network of Local Initiatives with Asylum Seekers (INLIA)

M. Bredero, spokeswomen Ministry of Justice, The Hague

L.J. Verhulst, Deputy-major City of Utrecht and alderman of Christian-Democratic Party

B. Jens, Spokesman Police District Utrecht

M. Jenezon,  Support Point Illegals Utrecht / Foundation Lauw-Recht

T. Bedaux, Interim-Director Dutch Refugee Council Utrecht

E.M. van Bremen, District Employee, International Organization of Migration- District Midden

G. Luiten, Wijkgroep A.Z.C. Utrecht

Amena, Somali asylum seeker living in Utrecht

J.L. Spekman, Alderman Labor Party

D. Wilhelm, (COA) press officer, Central Reception Service for Asylum Seekers (COA) Rijswijk

Newspaper Articles, Books and Brochures

Olson, E. UN RefugeeChief Scolds Europe, International Herald Tribune, dd. 22/06/01

'Utrecht offers bed, bath and bread emergency shelter', Volkskrant, dd 09/06/01

Municipality should not host asylumseekers', Volkskrant, dd 09/06/01

M. Bowden; Black Hawk Down 1st edition, 1999 Puinguin Publishers, New-York, U.S.A.

Asylum Seekers in the Netherlands, department of communication COA Rijswijk, March 2000 

Reception of Asylum Seekers, Support Point Illegals Utrecht, 18 June 2001

Websites

Press Releases Ministry of Justice htttp://www.minjust.nl

Annual reports: Asylum chain and refugees, dd 09/02/01 

On 1 April 2000, the New aliens act enters into force, dd. 28/03/01

Fact Sheets Ministry of Justice New Aliens Legislation, dd 06-07-2000

New Aliens Act 2000, admittance and reception of aliens in the netherlands, PDF-file Ministry of Justice, http://www.minjust.nl

Dutch Refugee Council, http://www.vluchtelingenwerk.nl

Support Point Illegals Utrecht, http://www.euronet.nl/~stil

Central Body for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA), http://www.coa.nl

Endnotes

Press Releases Ministry of Justice On 1 April 2000, the New aliens act enters into force, dd. 28/03/01

Municipal document: New Asylum Legislation and rejected asylum seekers for the Board of Major and Aldermen ( Notitie Nieuwe Vreemdelingenwer en uitgeprocedeerden), May 15, 2001

Interview J. van Tilborg

Website Ministry of Justice, http://www.minjust.nl

Interview with M. Bredero

Interview with  L.J. Verhulst

Interview with B. Jens

Interview with M. Jenezon 

Interview with T. Bedaux

International Organization for Migration Information package

Interview with E.M. van Bremen

M. Bowden; Black Hawk Down

Interview with G. Luiten

Interview with Amena

Olson, E. UN RefugeeChief Scolds Europe

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Netherlands Netherlands 2001

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