Some foreign residents facing deportation as Covid crisis dented income
People with a temporary residence permit who work in the creative sector are at high risk of being deported from the Netherlands. As a result of the coronavirus measures, they saw their income drop significantly and therefore do not meet the standard amount they must earn to keep their residency permit. Immigration lawyers are outraged.
Lawyers Jeremy Bierbach of Franssen Advocaten and Eva Bezem of Prakken d'Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers assist clients who are at risk of having to leave the Netherlands. They find it "bizarre" that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) is so strict on this point.
Two years ago, the arts and culture sector was forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Cabinet set up several support schemes for independent entrepreneurs, including the TOZO bridging scheme. Typically, people with a temporary residency permit do not qualify for social assistance. But after inquiries by GroenLinks in 2020, the government decided it would be lenient due to the pandemic. According to Bezem, the IND subsequently communicated that independent entrepreneurs' income would be deemed "sufficient" if they received TOZO.
But now it appears that the IND is not counting money received from the TOZO scheme as income. Because they haven't earned enough as a result, applications for extending their temporary residence permit are rejected. A single person must earn a gross monthly wage of almost 1,300 euros to qualify for an extension.
Bierbach and Bezem represent seven clients who face deportation. They expect many more people are affected. "I don't understand why they don't see pandemic as force majeure," said Bezem.
The lawyers find it remarkable that the IND initially acted leniently but then decided to strictly stick to the income requirement. "It is the motor implementation of regulations that do not correspond with reality," Bezem said. She had her first clients draw up lists of all the assignments that they demonstrably missed due to the coronavirus measures. "The IND can see that they made an effort. Because those assignments were only canceled due to the Cabinet's choice to ignore the art and cultural sector for a long time."
Platform Beeldende Kunst, which represents artists, also received similar stories from people in trouble. "The essential point in this story is that these artists were granted temporary residence permits because of their cultural value. That value has not disappeared. It is a bloodletting of the cultural sector if they have to leave."
When asked, the IND said that an appeal on social assistance might have consequences for the right of residence. According to the IND, it performs a "reasonableness test." "We look at the individual situation. What we can expect from someone in the context of the current pandemic depends on their personal situation."
Reporting by ANP