Amsterdam to aid asylum seekers in setting up businesses

Amsterdam launched a rather controversial program in which the city is helping asylum seekers set up their own businesses, even if they do not have a residency permit yet. The city believes that getting asylum seekers working as quickly as possible will help with their integration into society. 

The first batch of asylum seekers started the program early this month, newspaper Trouw reports. Only three of the 19 participants don't have refugee status yet. A second group will start the program next month. If these projects succeed, more will follow.

D66 alderman Kasja Ollongren acknowledges that Amsterdam is pushing the boundaries with what is allowed, but believes it will be worth it. Three quarters of asylum seekers currently living in emergency or asylum shelters will eventually be given refugee status and stay i the Netherlands. This year Amsterdam is taking in 2,400 refugees, and "the faster they start to work , the faster they'll be Amsterdammers", the alderman said to the newspaper.

"If asylum seekers spend to long in a hopeless situation, it is bad for their later integration", the alderman said. "The procedures have become very long. We therefore actually have to get to work now."

This experiment forms part the Amsterdam municipality's larger plan to guide refugees into the labor market faster.