Hague asylum deal "inhumane": UN rapporteur

Asylum seekers evicted from the Vluchtgarage sleeping in tents and outside in De Pijp (Picture: Facebook/We Are Here/Wij Zijn Hier)Asylum seekers evicted from the Vluchtgarage sleeping in tents and outside in De Pijp (Picture: Facebook/We Are Here/Wij Zijn Hier)

According to UN Rapporteur Philip Alston, the bed-bath-and-bread compromise made by coalition is in violation of international rules and harms the international image of the Netherlands. "It is clearly a violation of human rights. Anyone who doubts that is being dishonest." the human rights rapporteur said.

"It's a great shame for the Netherlands that it is working so inhumanely." he said on NOS Radio 1 Journaal. "These people have fled the terrible situation their country, but they are treated as criminals who want to steal from the Dutch." 

On Wednesday the PvdA and VVD came to an agreement that shelter for failed asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants will be centralized in six locations - The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven, with Ter Apel as deportation center. Failed asylum seekers will only be given basic shelter if they cooperate in their return to their own country, if they don't they will be put out on the street.

According to Alston, this goes against international treaties. "Under international law, now one can deny shelter when needed. The laws are clear, no debate is possible. All the little details, that there will only be a few centers, that shelter will only last a few weeks and that they must cooperate with deportation, are masking a fundamental violation of human rights by the Netherlands. It is clearly an illegal policy." he said to NOS. "If the Netherlands wants to become an island within Europe that steps on human rights, then simply just say so. Simply say: we think that human rights in our country do not apply to non-Europeans."

Alston is calling on local authorities, who foresee many practical problems in the implementation of this plan, to speak out against this policy. "The Netherlands has always been a strong supporter for human rights. It is important that local authorities protest against this and say that they will not contribute to a policy that violates human rights."

This compromise was made after 9 days of crisis meetings that, like the healthcare crisis in December, seemed to threaten the collapse of the cabinet, with the coalition seeming unable to agree on anything. The PvdA wanted to take a humanitarian approach, while the VVD wanted stricter policies in dealing with failed asylum seekers. At one point VVD faction leader Halbe Zijlstra likened the refugees to notorious Dutch criminal boss Willem Holleeder, implying that if Holleeder ignored the judge like the failed asylum seekers do, he would still be a free man.

The coalition's asylum plan is facing opposition from many sides in the Netherlands, including from municipalities, opposition parties and even some local branches of the PvdA itself.