Making and registering the application
If an asylum seeker enters the Netherlands by land, he or she has to apply at the Central Reception Centre (Centraal Opvanglocatie, COL) in Ter Apel (nearby Groningen, north-east of the Netherlands), where the registration takes place. The Aliens Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie, AVIM) takes note of personal data such as name, date of birth and country of origin. Data from Eurodac and the Visa Information System (VIS) are consulted and AVIM registers the application in Eurodac. The asylum application is formally lodged at the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND).
If an asylum seeker from a non-Schengen country has arrived in the Netherlands by plane or boat, the application for asylum is to be made before crossing the Dutch external (Schengen) border, at the Application Centre at Schiphol Airport (AC). The Royal Military Police (KMar) is mainly responsible for the registration of those persons who apply for asylum at the international airport. The KMar refuses the asylum seeker entry to the Netherlands if he or she does not fulfil the necessary conditions, and the asylum seeker will be detained in the Border Detention Centre (Justitieel Complex Schiphol, JCS). As far as known in recent years, no problems have been reported by asylum seekers as regards the fact that the KMar did not recognise their claim for international protection as an asylum request.
The IND takes care of the transfer of the asylum seeker to the AC, where further registration of the asylum application takes place. The AC is a closed centre. It sometimes happens that an application cannot be registered immediately, for instance when no interpreters are available. In this situation, an asylum seeker can be detained in the JCS.
If an asylum seeker is already on Dutch territory, he or she is expected to express the wish for asylum to the authorities as soon as possible after arrival in the Netherlands, which is, according to jurisprudence, preferably within 48 hours.
As a rule, after registration at the AC, asylum seekers immediately go to the COL. After the registration procedure in the COL, they are transferred to a Process Reception Centre (Proces Opvanglocatie, POL).
In January 2019, the State Secretary of Justice introduced a new policy, that requires every asylum seeker to complete an extensive form at the start of the registration procedure, containing questions about their (1) identity; (2) place and date of birth; (3) nationality, religious and ethnic background; (4) date of leaving the country of origin; (5) arrival date in the Netherlands; (6) remains/stay in one or more third countries when appropriate; (7) identity cards or passport; (8) itinerary; (9) schooling/education; (10) military services; (11) work/profession; and (12) living environment and family.
The completed form is followed by a registration interview (Aanmeldgehoor). During the registration interview, questions can be asked about identity, nationality, travel route and family members.
The Aliens Decree on the Regular Asylum Procedure (“Track 4”) has been amended. The amendment has entered into force on 25 June 2021. Consequently, amongst other changes, the registration procedure, including the registration interview, is formally laid down in the Aliens Decree. Since the amendment, the immigration officer also explicitly questions the asylum seeker, during the registration interview, about the reasons for fleeing his or her country of origin. This also applies to unaccompanied minors. The change that was criticised by the Dutch Council for Refugees, given that during the registration procedure, the asylum seeker does not benefit from legal assistance and is not entitled to obtain individualized information. As a result, the asylum seeker will not be informed about the impact of his statements regarding reasons for fleeing his country of origin. It should be noted that asylum seekers receive a brochure from the IND at the start of the registration procedure; however, the brochure just provides general information about the asylum procedure in the Netherlands, and cannot be considered as a substitute for individualised assistance.
Due to the extensiveness of the registration form and its follow up registration interview, the first (verification) interview on day 1 of the regular asylum procedure has been abolished.
The rest and preparation period
Exclusively in Track 4, the asylum seeker is granted a rest and preparation period. This starts when the registration interview has taken place and the registration procedure has ended. The rest and preparation period is designed to give first time asylum applicants some days to cope with the stress of fleeing their country of origin and the journey to the Netherlands.
The rest and preparation period takes at least 6 days. It is designed, on one hand, to offer the asylum seeker some time to rest; on the other hand, to provide the time needed to undertake several preparatory actions and investigations. The main activities during the rest and preparation period are:
- Investigation of documents conducted by the KMar;
- Medical examination by an independent medical agency (MediFirst) which provides medical advice on whether the asylum seeker is physically and psychologically capable to be interviewed by the IND;
- Counselling by the Dutch Council for Refugees (VluchtelingenWerk Nederland); and
- Appointment of a lawyer and substantive preparation for the asylum procedure.
The rest and preparation period is not available to asylum seekers falling in the Dublin procedure (Track 1) or those coming from a safe country of origin or who receive protection in another EU Member State (Track 2). Furthermore, there is no rest and preparation period in the following situations:
- the asylum seeker constitutes a threat to public order or national security;
- the asylum seeker causes nuisance in the reception centre;
- the asylum seeker is detained on the basis of Article 59b Aliens Act;
- the application is a subsequent application for asylum.
The rest and preparation period takes at least six days, while no maximum number of days is indicated. During the entire period asylum seekers have access to reception and medical aid. From 2018 onwards, this period has been considerably extended due to delays on the side of the IND. In March 2020, 15,350 asylum applications of people who applied for asylum before 1 April 2020 were passed on to a newly established Task Force, with the aim of clearing the backlogs before the end of 2020. The Task Force has not succeeded in doing so. A new aim was to clear the backlog by mid-2021. In October 2021, there 500 applications were still to be assessed. The Task Force used the following measures: (1) interviews via videoconference, (2) written interviews, (3) recruitment of (around) 250 new employees mainly from employment agencies and (4) outsourcing activities. The Task Force has ended its activities at the end of 2021.
The Dutch Council for Refugees has monitored the activities of the Task Force and the measures, which were created to clear the backlog. At the end of 2020, a first analysis was realised and the findings were published in November 2020, while a follow up to the monitoring report was published in July 2021. One of the main findings was that the new employees of the Task Force, mainly recruited by employment agencies, lacked the expertise necessary to realise detailed interviews and assess complex asylum cases (e.g. regarding LGBTI and religious conversion claims). In these complex cases, a process was introduced to overcome this problem: more experienced immigration officers of the IND became involved and more applications were referred to the extended asylum procedure. Another relevant point coming from the report was that the written intentions to reject the application and the decisions, which were taken by the Task Force, lacked quality. In case the IND decides to reject the asylum application, it will issue a written intention providing the grounds and reasons for a possible rejection. The written intention is sent to the lawyer and/or handed over to the applicant. Furthermore, an observation was that the written interviews did not help to speed up the processing time of the applications. The applications still were referred to the extended procedure.
The Inspector of the Ministry of Justice & Security who monitored the Task Force also concluded that the new caseworkers lacked expertise and that the decisions taken by the Task Force lacked quality. Processing time was more important than the quality and due diligence of the procedure.
Although the Task Force has taken over the backlog from the IND, due to an increase of applications, a new backlog of 6,400 applications originated in the last months. The objective is to clear it during the first quarter of 2022.  The numbers of the processing time show that it takes 18 weeks when the Regular asylum procedure starts. When the application is referred to the extended procedure, it takes on average 56 weeks before a decision is taken.
The IND was obliged to pay a large sum in legal penalties (dwangsommen) to asylum seekers whose application had not been decided upon within the legal time frame of 6 months. The regular asylum procedure in 2019 took on average 27 weeks to assess the asylum claim, while in the extended asylum procedure it took 44.5 weeks. Therefore, the ‘Temporary Act on suspension of penalties for the IND (Tijdelijke wet opschorting dwangsommen IND)’ was passed by the Dutch Parliament and entered into force on 11 July 2020. Under the Temporary act, asylum seekers are excluded from giving the IND a notice of default, going to the regional court and receiving a legal penalty in cases where the IND does not decide upon their application in time. The Temporary Act did not apply to cases in which the legal time frame had already passed and the IND had been given notice of default by the asylum seeker. On 11 July 2021, one year after its entry into force, the Temporary Act expired. Currently, asylum seekers can give the IND a notice of default and lodge an appeal at the regional court, but the asylum seeker is still excluded from obtaining an indemnity as a result of the Temporary act.
In two cases concerning the Temporary Act, the Council of State will rule in an onward appeal whether the Act is in accordance with the EU principle of equality. The Council of State asked the State Secretary to respond to its question regarding this principle. According to the State Secretary the Temporary Act is not in violation with the EU principle of equality because the stipulations laid down in the Temporary Act do not fall within the scope of EU Law, so that the EU Principles of equality and effectiveness do not apply in this situation.
Next to the Temporary Act, a draft bill has been published on 15 October 2020, which stipulates that all applicants who lodge an application based on the Aliens Act are excluded from receiving legal penalties (indenisation). This might mean that not only asylum seekers, but every person who lodges an application on the basis of the Aliens Act will be excluded from receiving legal penalties when the time limits have exceeded, for example people (including Dutch nationals) who apply for family reunification. Due to national elections and the forming of a new Dutch Cabinet (Administration) the draft bill still has to be discussed in Parliament.
Due to the ongoing pandemic in May 2020, the statutory decision period for asylum applications in general was extended by six months. The State Secretary referred to the European Commission’s Guidance, which mentioned that Article 31(3)(b) of the Asylum Procedures Directive allows Member States to extend the six months period for concluding the examination of applications. On 16 December 2020, the Council of State ruled that this extension is not unreasonable and not contrary to Union law.
Impact of COVID-19 Measures on access to the procedure and registration
Due to the measures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, the asylum procedure was suspended from 15 March 2020 up to 28 April 2020. During this period, the registration of asylum seekers had been limited to the of taking fingerprints to search the Dutch and European databases, frisking, searching luggage and taking possession of documents. The Aliens Police, Identification and Human Trafficking Division (AVIM) carries out this process in the application centre in Ter Apel. After the registration and before they were able to lodge the official application for asylum, asylum seekers were taken to an emergency accommodation in Zoutkamp. They could not freely leave this accommodation. The emergency location was closed on 12 May 2020.
 Article 3(3) Aliens Act.
 Council of State, Decision ABKort 1999.551, 20 September 1999.
 Qrticle 3.109 Aliens Decree, paragraph C1/2.1 Aliens Circular and IND Work instruction 2018/15 Aanmeldgehoren en Verificatie eerste gehoren.
 Amendment Aliens Decree, In verband met het regelen van de aanmeldfase en het vervallen van het eerste gehoor in de algemene asielprocedure, Staatsblad 2021, 250, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3rb1rhJ.
 Article 3.109 Aliens Decree.
 This occurs from practice and is not regulated by the law.
 Article 3.109(7)a Aliens Decree.
 Article 3.109(7)a Aliens Decree, for the definition of ‘nuisance’ see paragraph C1/2.2 Aliens Circular.
 Article 3.109(7)a Aliens Decree.
 Article 3.118b Aliens Decree.
 The Penalty Payments and Appeals for Failure to Make a Timely Decision Act, provides that a citizen can go to court when an administrative body does not take a timely decision and request a penalty payment. The Act entered into force in 2009, and has been applicable to the IND since October 2012. It foresees that an asylum seeker can receive a penalty payment following a non-timely decision.
 Article 4:17 GALA, Regional Court Arnhem, decision no NL19.22847, 14 November 2019, Regional Court Amsterdam, decision no NL19.18215, 13 September 2019.
 This means that the lawyer concerned has to inform (in writing) the IND that it has exceeded the time limit of 6 months and has to request the IND to issue a decision within a maximum period of 2 weeks.
 Council of State, case number 202102128/1 and 202102144/1, 29 October 2021.
 European Commission, Guidance on the implementation of relevant EU provisions in the area of asylum and return procedures and on resettlement, 17 April 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/35T5DIY.
 Council of State, Decision No 202005098/1, ECLI:NL:RVS:2020:3020, 16 December 2020.