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The Undeportables: An insight into the invisible lives of “undeportable” migrants in the Netherlands

Out of all minority groups in The Netherlands, the group of “undeportable” migrants may well be the most marginalized. It is estimated that between 35 and 60 thousand people find themselves in the paradoxical situation of being unwelcome in The Netherlands as well as their home country. That number reflects about half of the irregular migrants – often referred to as “illegals” - living in Dutch society. For these “undeportable” migrants it is impossible to obtain a residence permit in the Netherlands, but they are also unable to seek asylum elsewhere in the European Union or return to their country of origin. For most Dutch citizens the group of “undeportable” migrants lives an invisible life. This article aims to reveal the daily problems and obstacles that “undeportable” migrants and the organizations that work with them encounter, while also shining a light on the broader legal and political context that facilitates the continued and pervasive exclusion of these countless individuals.


Across from us sits Alee, a 27-year old originally from Tanzania. He is sporting an orange tie with a football pattern, matching the Dutch Eurocup football fever. Alee was born in rural Tanzania to Burundian parents, and tells us that throughout his youth he never obtained any official identification documents. He arrived in The Netherlands four years ago, after traveling from Tanzania to South Africa, where he met a Senegalese friend who convinced him to try his luck in Europe. Together they embarked on the lengthy trip north, arriving in Spain by boat and making their way to France. Alee, who only spoke Swahili and English, felt uneasy in the predominantly French-speaking Senegalese migrant community in Paris. With the help of a new acquaintance he managed to get on a train to The Netherlands. But without a passport or documents to prove his identity and country of origin, the Dutch immigration police (IND) at the migrant reception center in Ter Apel rejected his asylum application within four days. He was put in detention for over eleven months, first on a detention boat in Dordrecht, then in a second detention center in Alphen aan den Rijn. However, Dutch immigration officials could not deport him to his home country, since they failed to establish his nationality and country of origin without adequate documentation. Both the Tanzanian and the Burundian embassy refused to recognize Alee as one of their citizens and grant him the necessary “laissez-passer.” At the end of his second detention period, he was therefore told that he had two days to leave the country, and released with the warning not try his luck in any other European Union country.

Who are they?

Alee’s situation, strange as it may seem, is far from being unique in The Netherlands. According to a 2008 Amnesty International report, more than half of the country’s irregular migrants and rejected asylum-seekers cannot be legally expelled and are often left destitute after having gone through the Dutch asylum procedure and detention system. Although the numbers are inevitably rough estimates, human rights organizations report that there are currently approximately 35,000 to 60,000 people living in the Netherlands illegally who de facto cannot be deported even when apprehended by immigration authorities. Who are these so-called “undeportable” migrants? For the most part, they are refugees or migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected and who, for a variety of reasons, do not have the required documentation to return to their country of origin. 

The Dutch immigration bureaucracy is based on the assumption that every person has a documented nationality. Every asylum seeker is thus asked to prove his or her identity and reason for coming to The Netherlands. But reality is often more complicated. In many cases the migrants in question do not have sufficient paperwork to prove their citizenship, such as birth certificates or school and health records. Some refugees stem from countries such as Somalia, Myanmar, or the Palestinian territories that are politically contested, where official documents are difficult to procure or might not be issued at all. Other may have lost or given up their documents during their long and often hazardous journey to Europe. Some refugees or self-proclaimed stateless persons undoubtedly attempt to avoid identification and deportation by destroying or hiding their official documents, or claim to be from another country in order to increase the likelihood of being granted asylum. In the absence of documentation, the IND has various mechanisms to identify a person’s place of origin and identity. They may contact various embassies in the hope that one of them will claim the irregular migrant in question as one of their citizens, or use more subjective tests such as language and dialect analysis. They may also ask the migrant to contact family members or to describe their neighborhood and famous landmarks of their country. But irregular migrants are often fleeing from conflict or persecution. Their journey and experiences are marked by complications and constant relocations, and many lose touch with their relatives at home. These factors usually make it extremely difficult to clearly identify an individual’s actual citizenship.

A 2011 UNHCR report on statelessness in The Netherlands confirmed that deportation is generally not only dependent on a person’s willingness to return to their home country, but oftentimes requires the cooperation of the individual’s family and country of origin. Countries such as Ethiopia, Syria and Eritrea require the return of a rejected asylum seeker to be completely voluntary (Dutch NGO Coalition for Children’s Rights, 2003). In other instances, the country of origin may currently be under a travel ban, or refuse to cooperate with the return of its citizens. “China and India, for example, simply do not grant their citizens laissez-passers to return home after being refused asylum abroad,” explains Marjo van Bergen, a counselor from the Humanistisch Verbond in Amsterdam. “The question that immigration officials are confronted with always remains the same: can the undocumented migrant influence the decision? Is he or she concealing information and documents that would prove his or her country of origin? In most cases, it is simply impossible to know.”

The current system nevertheless imposes harsh penalties upon those who are unable to leave or be deported. Having exhausted all judicial possibilities of remaining legally resident in The Netherlands, thousands of people, including families with children, are simply put on the streets and told to leave the Netherlands within 48 hours. According to the Dublin Agreement, they are not allowed to seek asylum in any other EU country. How can these irregular migrants travel outside of the EU without proper documentation? Which country will accept them? The government’s assumption is that most of these rejected asylum seekers must have hidden their documents, and decide to return to their home country when faced with the prospect of future detention or a life of exclusion and marginalization. While this policy may work in some cases, a majority of migrants find themselves stuck in a position in which they neither have the possibility to leave nor the option of integrating into Dutch society. The chances for “undeportable” or stateless individuals to gain legal status in The Netherlands are practically zero. Instead, this sizable population group is condemned to live a life devoid of the most basic human rights, invisible to most of Dutch society and ignored by the political system.

Jelle Klaas, a lawyer at Fischer Advocaten who specializes in social and economic rights for marginalized population groups, is currently working on a case that epitomizes this problem. He represents a Roma family with eight children, some of them very young, who came to The Netherlands from Macedonia, fleeing the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. They received temporary asylum, but missed one of their mandatory IND appointments as they had been evicted from their house and never received the IND’s notice. Their resident permit was subsequently revoked, and they find themselves in a seemingly impossible situation: Yugoslavia no longer exists, and none of its successor states are willing to recognize and accept the family. Dutch immigration authorities have demanded that they leave the country – yet they have nowhere to go. According to Klaas, “the government is creating a fiction. Many of these people are cooperating with officials, yet they have nowhere to go. We are simply telling people to leave, and pretend that the problem will disappear.”

A Mixed Group

But not all ‘undeportable’ migrants are de facto stateless like Klaas’ Roma clients. Hany is a Coptic Christian with an Egyptian passport. He arrived in The Netherlands four years ago on a tourist visa, fleeing religious persecution in his home country. He has written several books about the connection between Christianity and Islam, and Egyptian Salafists persecuted him for his missionary activities. Although the situation in Egypt has changed significantly in the past year, Christians remain a religious minority in the country. Despite the fact that he has all the required documentation, Hany continues to be afraid to return to Egypt.

How does the government decide whether it is safe to send people back to their country of origin? The Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs assesses the situation in every country based on situational reports they receive from various sources, including Dutch embassies abroad and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. After considering this information the Ministry of Foreign Affairs adopts an official position on whether it is safe to send people back to the country in question or not. In Hany’s case, the government decided that it is safe for Coptic Christians to be returned to Egypt. Hany disagrees. He believes he will be persecuted by Salafists due his faith and past activities. “The reality on the ground is different from official reports,” he says. 

At the Wereldhuis, a community organization in Amsterdam that assists irregular migrants, we also meet with Abbas, a fifty-year old Iranian refugee who has lived in The Netherlands for four years. He is in a comparable situation: although the IND recognized all of his documents as authentic, his claims for political asylum have repeatedly been rejected. Abbas’ English is broken, and he tells us he does not know why his application was not approved. His story begins in Tehran, Iran, where he worked as jeweler for thirty-five years. “I had a good life,” he tells us, “a house, a family, work.” But his political opposition to the Iranian regime repeatedly caused him trouble. He was arrested in his home and spent 58 months in the infamous Evin prison in Tehran. He fears that if he returns to Iran, he will be arrested again. His son, who fled with him from Turkey, remains stuck in Greece – Abbas has not heard from him in three months. Sitting in front of us, he dials his son’s number on his mobile phone – nobody picks up. Abbas speaks with disappointment about the Dutch asylum system. “The immigration and judicial system rewards those people who lie. I have tried to be honest about my situation, and my story was continuously rejected. People have told me I should say that I am a Christian and persecuted in Iran for my religion. But this is not the truth. Perhaps if I had lied I would have been granted asylum.” For him, the priority now is to see his son. “After that, I am willing to die. I am not happy. I don’t see a point in living this life.”

After Detention

After being told to leave The Netherlands within two days, Alee found himself alone in a country that he did not know, unsure of where to go. While still in detention, a friend had told him of an organization in Amsterdam called Open Door, which provides assistance and guidance to undocumented migrants. At Open Door he met Pastor Cor, who gave him some financial support and connected him with a lawyer and the migrant community in the city. Since 2009, Alee has found himself in a situation typical for ‘undeportable’ or officially ‘stateless’ migrants: unable to find legal work or return to school, with almost no financial means, and continuously facing the possibility of further imprisonment. Two years ago, he was again placed in detention at Zaandam for three months due to a tram ticket fine. “Life here is very difficult,” Alee says.  He would like to return to Tanzania and Burundi, perhaps to become a car mechanic. In the meantime, he spends his time volunteering at the Wereldhuis.

Many undocumented migrants who have exhausted all or most legal avenues manage to survive with the help of organizations such as Open Door or the Wereldhuis in Amsterdam. They offer legal and financial help as well as language courses, free internet, food, and cultural activities. Pastor Cor, who provides counseling at both organizations, explains that the current infrastructure remains largely inadequate. Open Door serves approximately 500 people a year. Most of them hear about the organization through friends or family connections. But the population in need is much greater. For Pastor Cor, the validity of an individual’s identity or claimed citizenship is not the first priority. “I am not a lawyer, or an interviewer of the IND. I tend to trust people. You have to start with their story – I don’t ask them to point to Google maps and justify their claims. In fact, I think it’s a fairly Western way of thinking – to just ask people to map out their life. I try to look at people with different eyes.” We ask him how he views the problem of ‘undeportable’ migrants that fall through the official procedures. For Open Door, the problem lies more in the asylum system as a whole, rather than in individual cases of deception or actual statelessness. According to Pastor Cor, the current system fails because too many people apply for asylum that do not fit the category of “political refugees,” or cannot prove that they do. “If you do not have documents, immigration authorities do not trust your identity and claims. If you do have all necessary documentation, it is also viewed as suspicious, as you are supposed to be coming from a difficult situation.”

Living conditions among ‘undeportable’ migrants vary considerably, and are greatly determined by an individual’s access to available support networks. As most irregular migrants move in a parallel society beyond the purview of state authorities, there is little reliable data available about their day-to-day lives. Dutch law states that undocumented migrants are guaranteed three basic rights: the right to medically necessary health care, the right to legal assistance and the right to education for children under the age of 18. According to Marijke Bijl, of the Support Committee for Undocumented Workers (OKIA), the reality on the ground looks slightly different. Communication problems, fear, and lack of information oftentimes prevent migrants from seeking out their rights. OKIA therefore regularly holds community meetings to share legal information and exchange experiences.

In the absence of governmental financial support and legal status, a large part of the ‘undeportable’ migrant community relies on informal networks of people from their own ethnic or national communities for survival. They live with friends and family or sub-lease a temporary room from other migrants, often at a relatively high price. But stricter immigration laws in recent years have made migrant networks more reluctant to help ‘irregulars’ by providing housing or other forms of assistance. Abbas for example currently lives with a friend, but has also spent nights in hotels, shelters, or outside on the street. In Amsterdam, many rejected asylum seekers move to the Bijlmer district in the capital’s Southeast, which is home to the largest number of undocumented people in the city. Some manage to find work on the black market, particularly as domestic workers, au pairs or in the agricultural sector. Although there is a domestic workers’ union representing irregular migrants, the overall risk for abuse or exploitation is high. Many employers know that the migrants will be too afraid to file complaints with the police or the labor inspection office. “Labor law and alien law currently do not intersect well, which causes problems for labor inspection authorities that are supposed to enforce workers’ rights,” explains Marijke Bijl. “But in general, it is fair to say that undocumented migrants, while facing extra burdens, work in industries in which documented workers are also badly protected.” Many ‘undeportable’ migrants are thus too afraid to seek work. Hany, who is temporarily allowed to stay in The Netherlands for medical care, told us he receives no assistance from the government and completely depends on the Wereldhuis for financial support. “If I go to work somewhere and the police catches me, I will go to jail. Am I supposed to steal? Sometimes I feel that I am dead rather than alive.”  


If friends or organizations do not assist migrants, they can easily be targeted by criminals or fall into criminal activities themselves. David Teigeler from the Amsterdams Solidariteits Komitee Vluchtelingen (ASKV), an organization that supports rejected refugees who cannot return to their country of origin, emphasizes how vulnerable irregular migrants are. According to Michael Zwart, a police office in the Bijlmer area, irregular migrants are “easy targets” because criminals know that they are afraid to file reports with the police. Irregular migrants also cannot open a bank account, and as a result they often carry cash on them and are targeted by muggers. The situation is even worse for women, as fewer organizations have the capacity to assist them. “When you are a young woman on the streets, you are particularly vulnerable to abuse and uninvited approaches,” Teigeler points out. Women are approached by men who offer safe shelter, often expecting sexual favors in return. On the other hand, if irregular migrants are unable to find gainful legal employment or safe shelter, they can be a lured into drug trafficking or other illegal activities in order to survive. Zwart informs us that when a person is stopped by the police but cannot produce legal identification, the standard procedure is to hand the individual over to the IND. As a result,  “irregular migrants are always looking over their shoulder because they are afraid of being arrested.” 

Constructing Illegality

To understand the criminalization of the ‘undeportable’ migrants, one must only look at political developments in the Netherlands in the past decades. Throughout this period, the country’s migration policy increasingly moved towards more restrictive measures which corresponded to a perceived ‘migration panic’ among many Dutch citizens. Rising opportunistic political parties exploited these xenophobic tendencies. As a result, the political climate radically changed, clearing the way for the first extreme right-wing party to win popular support: the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF). The party imploded after an environmental activist killed its leader. The Partij van de Vrijheid (PVV), a right-wing party that mainly focused on migration issues, immediately filled the political gap that was left behind. The name PVV stands for Freedom Party, even though the party mainly tries to limit the freedom of immigrants in Dutch society, rather than standing up for the civil liberties of all citizens.

In the last several years the PVV has dominated the political debate about migration. As part of a complex political constellation the party became part of the most right-wing Dutch government in history, which proposed making the ‘illegality’ of irregular migrants a criminal offence. This development in rhetoric can be seen as yet another step in the on-going criminalization of undocumented migrants. Irregular migrants have further been officially excluded from the provisions of the welfare state due to the 1998 Linkage Act (De Koppelingswet) that connects the data of different government institutions. In 2005 the government also mandated that individuals show identification when in contact with the police. The last time that this was the case in the Netherlands was during the German occupation of The Netherlands during World War II.

The duty to show identification, the Linkage Act, and the criminalization of migrants give  ‘undeportable’ migrants little room to maneuver. Instead, the new legislation forces them to become even less visible in society. Due to the judicial marginalization of ‘undeportable’ migrants it has become even harder for them to survive without small criminal acts. Howvever, while ‘undeportable’ migrants sometimes have to steal or deal to survive, empirical research indicates that irregular migrants’ involvement in crime tends to be exaggerated as well as differentiated by ethnic group (Engbersen & Van der Leun, 2001).

National vs. Local

While policies on the national level have become more and more restrictive, local officials and municipalities often use their discretion to help and support ‘undeportable’ migrants in their daily interactions, both to ensure public order and to address humanitarian concerns. Van der Leun, who investigated the influence of the Linkage Act on daily practices at the local level, found that there is a clear paradox between national policy goals on the one hand and the actions of lower-level professionals on the other. She argues that “the shifting down of international immigration controls is a complex process in which the aims are at least partly diluted at lower levels, where policy implementers are directly confronted with concrete dilemmas” (2006: 323). Her argument directly corresponds to our observations: most of the migration professionals we interviewed expressed the view that national and local policies and attitudes diverge considerably. 

Welfare states such as The Netherlands find themselves in a contradictory position. Hans van Amersfoort (2001: 170) argues that the friction between international legal frameworks and the philosophy of welfare states gives those states little room to act: “The bureaucracies of the receiving states are confronted with flows of people at their borders claiming internationally recognized rights and entitlements, which welfare states cannot refuse to implement without violating the principles on which they are founded.”  Fanny de Groot of Humanistisch Verbond thinks that unofficially, many local authorities twist official rules and simply give warnings rather than taking legal action when they come across ‘undeportable’ migrants that are not involved in serious criminal activities. “Some of the people working in detention centers also do not feel comfortable with their jobs,” says Fanny. ‘They acknowledge that the detention of ‘undeportable’ migrants is completely ineffective.”

In some parts of The Netherlands, the local police try to fight criminal acts against easily exploitable ‘undeportable’ irregular migrants by developing new initiatives for dialogue between communities of irregular migrants and the police. In the Bijlmer district of Amsterdam, Michael Zwart is part of a local police project that addresses the difficulties irregular migrants face, which is based on the recognition that most of these migrants tend to be victims rather than perpetrators of criminal activities. Once a month the police organizes a meeting with community groups in a religious center called De Kandelaar (The Chandelier). The migrants no longer have to fear detention or deportation but can simply file reports in case of crime or assault without being asked for documentation. The police thus assist irregular migrants if they are exploited at their workplace, robbed, raped or need medical assistance. This project was initiated in 2008 and has since led to a reduction in criminal activity in the Bijlmer.

Revolving Door

Such initiatives nevertheless remain rare. In most areas, those migrants who stay irregularly after their release from detention have the same risk of being detained again as they did before their first detention period (Broeders, 2009). Many rejected asylum seekers therefore get caught in a cycle of repeated detention periods, precarious living conditions and IND expulsion attempts. Marjo van Bergen, who has provided counseling to migrants in detention camps throughout The Netherlands, has seen many such cases. “I have met people who have been in this country for 17 or 18 years, cycling in and out of detention, not working, who are losing more and more of their social network and suffering from increasing psychological problems. Many lose their desire to live. I would say 50% of the individuals in detention camps have had suicidal thoughts.”

According to Susan Schutjes, a regional trainer for Amnesty International Netherlands, immigration officials have no right to put individuals back in detention unless there is a serious possibility that they can and will actually be deported. However, the reality on the ground is different: a simple embassy appointment counts as proof that deportation is possible (even if such efforts have previously failed), and the accusation of being “non-cooperative” is oftentimes enough to send an irregular migrant back into confinement. Do these restrictive measures actually change the number of irregular immigrants in the Netherlands? The intensification of the Dutch detention regime in the past decade has so far failed to lead to an increase in the actual number of deportations. Many migrants are aware of mechanisms to frustrate the identification process, which means that in practice immigration detention seizes to function as a temporary stop in preparation for deportation (Broeders, 2009). David Teigeler (ASKV) argues that immigration authorities instead use the detention system as a pressure mechanism aimed at pushing irregular migrants to reveal concealed documentation and voluntarily return to their home countries.  In many cases, technically ‘undeportable’ migrants such as Alee from Tanzania are thus repeatedly held in a detention system that was never conceived for long stays. Even from a purely economic standpoint the current detention policy comes at a high cost, particularly if the end result is that the irregular migrant ends up back on the street. 

Not everyone believes that the current system is failing. Ingrid Schippers, a lawyer with 20 years experience at Werkgroep Opvang Uitgeprocedeerden (WOU), is convinced that “every migrant can return to their home country if they really want to,” and that, as a result, “no one is truly ‘undeportable.’” She agrees with the current government stance that many rejected asylum applicants have no claims to assistance and are simply concealing their documents or unwilling to cooperate. Pressure mechanisms such as the detention system and increasing criminalization measures are thus justified in order to push for expulsion. According to Jelle Klaas, the lawyer representing the undocumented Roma family, “such views are a huge misconception.” Earlier in June, Klaas visited Gezinsopvanglocaties (GOL), a family shelter in the south of The Netherlands, where he witnessed around 700 people who are fully cooperating with Dutch authorities and yet cannot be sent back to their countries of origin because of their lack of documentation or their home country’s refusal to allow their return. “There is a special procedure called the Buitenschuldverklaring (“not-your-fault” procedure) for people who cannot go back to their own country, but this procedure is barely used,” Schutjes (Amnesty International) says. Why would the Dutch government even institute such a procedure if “no one is undeportable,” as Schippers claims? Amnesty International is currently trying to put the issue of “undeportable migrants” on the national agenda, focusing, among other goals, on pressuring the government to implement the “not-your-fault” procedure more regularly. 

A Future for the Marginalized

The stories of Alee, Hany and Abbas show that the migration system of The Netherlands is far from perfect. Of course there will always be migrants who try to abuse the system and the wish for a flawless immigration system may be a utopian vision that will never become a reality. However, almost every professional we spoke to stressed that something needs to be done about the inhumane treatment of ‘undeportable’ migrants. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Humanistisch Verbond currently aim to put the oftentimes shocking conditions in Dutch detention centers on the political agenda. While they admit that detention conditions have been improving, they stress that the pace of the Dutch government remains too slow. The standards of current detention facilities continue to vary widely across the country. “There is a great difference between Zeist, which is quite an old detention center, and the newer ones in Rotterdam and Schiphol,” says Jaap Oosterveer, a spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Justice. 

Marjo van Bergen has dealt with many migrants in detention who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or became suicidal because of their hopeless future. In her experience, prolonged periods of detention take away the power of an ‘undeportable’ migrant to change his or her situation, which often worsens the individual’s psychological trauma. More attention must therefore be given to the alternatives to detention, such as electronic supervision or compulsory notification. The policies of other European countries - such as Belgium, Sweden and England - show that there are alternatives that are cheaper, more effective, and more humane at the same time.

However, adequately addressing the current marginalization of “undeportable” migrants requires much broader social and political change. One option would be to implement a regularization program. The last general pardon for irregular migrants in The Netherlands was in 2007. Demetrios Papademetriou for example argues that “the regularization of unauthorized immigrants, while controversial and politically complicated, is a public policy challenge that no country can ignore forever or, for that matter, ever perfect. (2005:14).” While earlier experiences with regularization could help shape effective future policies, the cyclical use of general pardons nevertheless does little to permanently address the obstacles that incoming irregular migrants face, and may serve as a magnet for prospective migrants.

For the thousands of irregular migrants who are not able to return but have not been granted political asylum, the government, rather than ignoring the problem, should guarantee their basic rights to shelter, work, health, and education. These could be provided through the implementation of an ‘earned regularization program’ which would allow people like Abbas, Hany, and Alee to work legally and find shelter. An ‘earned regularization program’ would give irregular migrants a temporary 5-year permit to work while paying taxes and building up a certain amount of obligatory savings. After five years, if the person has not committed any crime and knows functional Dutch, then he or she would be presented with the option of either taking all of their savings and returning home, or buying into the Dutch welfare state and being granted a legal residence permit for three years. At the end of this period, the immigrant would again have a choice to either return, or become a naturalized Dutch citizen. Although such an ‘earned regularization program’ is not a catch-all solution, ir could be a sensible start.

Bound by Borders?

While in the name of liberalism and cosmopolitanism the world's borders are rapidly fading away, they continue to be firmly strengthened in the area of migration. Unlike goods and capital, territorial borders still strictly bind people’s freedom of movement. This is especially the case for citizens of non-western countries, who are essentially captives of the state in which they were born. Political philosopher Joseph Carens argues that this restriction of free movement is a huge violation of the basic liberty of people to go where they desire (1992: 26-28). Carens compares current citizenship rules with the medieval practices of inheritance: even though one does not choose one’s country of birth, this simple element of fate has huge consequences for one’s quality of life. This is also underlined by other academics such as Hirst and Thompson (1996: 180), who argue that “the bulk of the world’s population lives in closed worlds, trapped by the lottery of their birth.”

The fact that (future) migrants of the global south encounter increasingly stricter barriers that try to prevent them from seeking their fortune in the global north does not stop them from coming. Instead, experts agree that such restrictive measures will only drive up migration costs. Only a more equal world will lower the incentives for migrants in the long run. Therefore, if European countries really do want to prevent illegal migration and the influx of asylum seekers, they could start by changing, for instance, the European agricultural policy. This sector is artificially kept alive with subsidies and trade barriers at the expense of African, South American, and Asian countries that could be far more competitive. Public discourse on immigration needs to acknowledge this connection between EU economic policies and their impact on global migration. In the long run, immigration policy should focus on the causes of migration in addition to focusing on how to administer the migrants when they arrive.

“There has always been migration. As long as this is the case, I think we need to accept migrants who come here to seek a better life, and guarantee them access to basic rights,” concludes Pastor Cor. “If we seriously want to change something, we need to change conditions in the countries of origin. In the end, it depends on what kind of world you want for all of us.” 




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Abbas, Irregular migrant from Iran

Alee, Irregular migrant from Tanzania/Burundi

Marjo van Bergen, former Humanistic Counsellor at detention centers

Marijke Bil, Staff member at Ondersteunings Komitee Illegale Arbeiders (OKIA)

Paulien Boogaard, Public Debate Associate at Humanistische Alliantie

Fanny de Groot, Network Manager at Humanistische Alliantie

Hany, Irregular migrant from Egypt

Jelle Klaas, lawyer at Fischer Advocaten

Cor Ofman, Pastor at De Open Deur

Ingrid Schippers, lawyer at Werkgroep Opvang Uitgeprocedeerden (WOU) 

Susan Schutjes, Regional Trainer at Amnesty International

David Teigeler, Judicial advisor for asylum seekers at Amsterdams Solidariteits Komitee Vluchtelingen (ASKV)

Michael Zwart, Police Inspector and Project leader

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HIA Program:

Netherlands Netherlands 2012


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