Justice Sec. letter to asylum seekers short on promises, clarity

Persfoto_Klaas_Dijkhoff
Klaas Dijkhoff (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/VVD.nl). (Klaas Dijkhoff (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/VVD.nl))

On Monday State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff sent a letter to the refugees in the Netherlands in which he explains that the asylum process will take longer and that they will have to spend more time living in asylum centers. The Association of Dutch Municipalities thinks it's great that the State Secretary sent the letter, but finds that more clarity is needed.

In the letter Dijkhoff explains that there is not enough room in the regular reception centers for the large number of refugees arriving in the Netherlands. "That is why you are receiving an austere reception, such as in sports centers or tents, were many people share the same lodgings."

He also explains that the large number of asylum applications means that the "reception system is very busy and the asylum procedure takes a long time". It takes about half a year before an application is processed. If it is then determined that further investigation is required, it can take up to another six months before a decision on whether or not a residency permit will be issued is made.

If the application is denied, the failed asylum seeker has to leave the Netherlands immediately. "In that case, we can assist you in your departure." If a temporary residency permit is granted, the asylum seeker will be allowed to stay in the Netherlands. There is currently not enough housing available for everyone. "It is therefore possible that you will have to remain in asylum seekers' residence center, even if yo have already been granted a temporary residence permit." The State Secretary adds that accommodation may come in the form of a container house or converted office building that may have to be shared with others.

Dijkhoff finally explains that a refugee cannot submit a so-called family reunification application - which requests that the refugee's family be allowed to join him/her in the Netherlands - before a residency permit has been granted. "We cannot offer you any advance assurances that your family will be allowed to join you. It can take a long time before you will gain clarity in this regard and before your family effectively joins you in the Netherlands."

Katwijk Mayor Jos Wienen, speaking on behalf of the Association of Dutch Municipalities, thinks that the State Secretary could have offered some more clarity in his letter. "Asylum seekers want to know where they stand and they ask for it." he said to broadcaster NOS. The letter does not answer all the questions that asylum seekers have. "There is much need or information about the personal circumstances of people waiting for the procedure. For example, how long will it take for me and what comes next. It is difficult having really no idea where you stand. Giving a picture on it helps, then the people can prepare themselves for that."

Wienen also described the tone of the letter as "cool, but that is the State Secretary's choice". He added that the content of the letter radiates the political debate in The Hague last week, during which the governing parties called for a more austere reception. "Perhaps Dijkhoff thought that he could use kind words to give the impression that everything can be done faster."

Here follows the full text of State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff's letter to asylum seekers:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Many asylum seekers like you are currently coming to the Netherlands. As a result, the reception system is very busy and the asylum procedures take a long time. I understand that you want to get a clear picture of your future as soon as possible. I will gladly describe what you can expect in this letter.

Austere reception

Currently, the Netherlands does not have enough room for asylum seekers at the regular reception centres. That is why you are receiving an austere reception, such as in sports centres or tents, where many people share the same lodgings.

Longer waits

Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell you on short notice whether you will be granted an asylum residence permit with which you can temporarily stay in the Netherlands. At present, it takes almost half a year before your application can be processed. Only then will the procedure serving to reach a decision on your application be initiated. This is assessed carefully for each person. Moreover, further investigation will be required. This can take an additional six months or longer.

Once it is decided that you cannot stay, you must leave the Netherlands immediately. In that case, we can assist you in your departure.

If you are permitted to stay, you will be granted a temporary residence permit. At this moment, there are not enough houses for everyone. It is therefore possible that you will have to remain in asylum seekers' residence centre, even if you have already been granted a temporary residence permit. Available accommodations can also consist of a container house or a converted office building. It is possible that you will have to share these accommodations with other people.

Family

As long as you do not have a temporary residence permit, you cannot submit an application to have your family members to join you. You can only submit an application for your family once you have a permit. We cannot offer you any advance assurances that your family will be allowed to join you. It can take a long time before you will gain clarity in this regard and before your family effectively joins you in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, I cannot specify how much time this will take at this moment.

I trust that the above provides you with sufficient information.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. K.H.D.M. Dijkhoff

The State Secretary of Security and Justice

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