Getting refugee status can take up to 15 months

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The asylum procedure in the Netherlands can now take up to 15 months, responsible State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff of Security and Justice said in a letter to the lower house of Dutch parliament on Wednesday. That is nine months longer than the maximum period of 6 months before an asylum seeker finds out whether he will be given refugee status, which applied up until earlier this week.

In his letter to the Tweede Kamer, Dijkhoff states that this extension is necessary due to the large influx of asylum seekers in the Netherlands, news wire ANP reports. The high number of asylum applications means that the 6 months maximum period is often exceeded. Dijkhoff stresses that not all applications will take 15 months. The extension is mainly to avoid legal problems if an application is not approved or rejected within the 6 months period.

According to the Immigrants Law, extending the maximum period in which an asylum application will be handled is possible if "a large number of migrants submit an application at the same time".

Another reason for Dijkhoff to extend the maximum period is to implement his decision to give so-called "small chance" asylum seekers priority in the procedure. These are asylum seekers who come from relatively safe countries or who already submitted an asylum application elsewhere in the European Union. The idea behind this plan is that if these "small chance" asylum seekers are rejected quickly, they will also leave the asylum centers quickly, making room for genuine asylum seekers. According to ANP, this plan is not in line with European rules.

All people submitting asylum applications now are informed about the longer waiting time.

Dijkhoff also addressed the National Ombudsman and Board for Human Rights' criticism on the emergency tent asylum camp Heumensoord in Nijmegen, which houses almost 3 thousand asylum seekers. According to him, everyday something is changed for the better. "But it will never be what we would offer under normal circumstances", Dijkhoff writes. He adds that closing the shelter is not an option, because "the alternative, no shelter, is even worse".