Court: Netherlands doesn't have to accelerate asylum seeker intake from overcrowded Greek camps

Syrian asylum seekers (Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons)Syrian asylum seekers (Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons)

For now the Netherlands does not have to take in asylum seekers from overcrowded asylum camps in Greece at an accelerated pace, the court in The Hague ruled on Friday in a lawsuit filed by activist group We Gaan Ze Halen (We Will Fetch Them) against the Dutch State, AD reports.

According to the group, the Netherlands is taking in too few asylum seekers from Greece. But the court ruled that the Netherlands has until September to meet its commitments on asylum intake.

In September 2015 EU countries pledged to take 160 thousand asylum seekers from Greece and Italy and distribute them over Europe within two years. The aim was to relieve the overcrowded refugee camps in those countries. By the end of February, a total of just over 13 thousand asylum seekers were redistributed across Europe, according to European asylum organization EASO. The Netherlands took in 1,434 of these asylum seekers.

The activist group thinks that the Netherlands is doing too little. "People are dying in appalling conditions" in the overcrowded camps in Greece, lawyer Adriaan Stoop, representing the group, said in court. "People died of the cold this winter. And then our State Secretary says: we bring enough people here, we do in a steady pace what we have to do", the lawyer said. "It is not good enough. The numbers have to go up. There are 60 thousand people trapped in Greece." The group wants the Netherlands to take in 7 thousand asylum seekers from Greece before September.

The State lawyer argued that the Netherlands is taking in 100 asylum seekers per month until September, and thereby fulfilling its promises. "It is not fixed numbers of people, but a percentage of the total." There are far fewer people eligible for transfer to other EU countries than the 160 thousand thought of in 2015, according to the lawyer. He added that there are only about 24 thousand people in Greek asylum camps. Many asylum seekers traveled to other EU countries on their own. And many of the people now in the Greek camps are not eligible for transfer and must be returned to Turkey under the asylum agreement between Turkey and the EU, the lawyer said.

The court ruled that "out of humanitarian considerations" it is understandable to say that the Netherlands should taken in more asylum seekers from Greece. "But it is not up to a civil court to decide whether it is desirable to take in more asylum seekers, For that political decisions must be made", the court said.

Stoop said that he and the group will carefully consider the ruling. "But I expect we will appeal."


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