Sharp increase in asylum seekers suspected of crimes: report

Politie patch on a Dutch police officer's uniform
Politie patch on a Dutch police officer's uniform. Aug. 20, 2015JoeppoulssenDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

The number of registered crimes in which an asylum seeker is a suspect increased by over a quarter last year, from nearly 4 thousand in 2018 to nearly 5 thousand cases in 2019, the Telegraaf reports based on an incident overview by the Ministry of Justice and Security that the newspaper has in its possession. The number of asylum seekers increased by three percent to nearly 55 thousand last year.

The Ministry did not want to comment on the overview yet. "This overview has not yet been completed," a spokesperson said to the newspaper. He expects that it will be sent to parliament by mid-May

In the overview, the Ministry said that the increase in crimes with asylum seekers as suspects can partly be explained by the police changing the way they register crimes. In the new method, multiple crimes committed at the same time are registered separately. For example, someone who broke into a home and stole something can be charged with burglary and possession of stolen property as separate crimes. But according to the Telegraaf, after the figures are corrected for this change, the number of cases involving asylum seekers still increase 22.4 percent.

The crimes on the overview mainly concern more minor offenses. Last year there were 2,100 incidents of shoplifting, about a quarter more than in 2018. Pickpocket cases increased by half to over 300, and possession of stolen property increased by two-thirds to nearly 200. The serious crimes on the overview include two cases of murder or manslaughter, the same as in 2018. The number of attempted murder or manslaughter cases increased by a quarter to 30, and the number of rapes doubled to 8.

According to the Telegraaf, 60 percent of suspected asylum seekers are from "safe" countries, and stand little chance of getting refugee status and a residency permit in the Netherlands. 

Figures around asylum seekers suspected of crimes cost Mark Harbers his job as State Secretary of Justice and Security last year. He come under fire because serious crimes like child abuse, murder and manslaughter were grouped under the 'other' category. Parliamentarians accused him of trying to hide these crimes. 

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