No measurable increase in crime near asylum centers: Dutch justice dept.

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The presence of an asylum center has no measurable effect on safety and crime in a neighborhood, scientific research and documentation center WODC concludes in a study done on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and Security. State Secretary Mark Harbers sent the results to the Tweede Kamer, NOS reports.

For this study, the WODC analyzed Statistics Netherlands figures for 2005, 2010, and 2015. The institute investigated whether people's fear for an increase in crime in a neighborhood if an asylum center opens, is justified. Two years ago these fears led to massive and often violent protests against asylum centers in Heesch, Oranje and Geldermalsen. According to the WODC, none of the analyzes showed that the presence of an asylum center had a demonstrable effect on the crime rate in the neighborhood or on the chance that an individual will fall victim to a crime. 

The researchers did note that areas with asylum centers did have slightly more registered burglaries and other crimes than areas that don't have asylum centers. But this can not be attributed to the presence of the center. "It appears that locations of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) are more common in socio-economically weaker neighborhoods. It is well known that neighborhood crime in such neighborhoods is relatively higher as a rule, regardless of the possible influence of a COA location."

The WODC also noted that residents of asylum centers are more often suspected of a crime than the average among the Dutch population - in 2015 between 2.5 and 3.7 percent of asylum seekers were suspected of a crime, compared to 1.2 percent of the 'regular' population. The researchers attribute this overrepresentation largely to the abnormal composition of the group of asylum seekers - there are way more young men in this group than in the regular population. They also note that asylum seekers from safe countries with little chance of being granted refugee status are more often suspected of crimes than asylum seekers from non-safe countries like Syria and Eritrea. 

In all three years surveyed, asylum seekers are less often suspected of crime than Dutch with similar demographic and socio-economical characteristics, according to the WODC. Of all people suspected of a criminal offense in the Netherlands, 0.5 percent are asylum seekers. 

State Secretary Harbers is cautiously optimistic about the WODC's conclusions, given the limitations of the research, he said to NOS. Like the WODC, he points out that "although this group receives a lot of attention", the asylum seekers' proportion in in crime in the studied years is very limited in relation to the total crime in the Netherlands. Harbers added that he wants to continue the "targeted approach to nuisance causing and criminal asylum seekers".