Conditions in detention facilities


Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 08/04/22


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The Bill regarding return and detention of aliens was introduced in 2015 but is still being debated and will enter into force once it is accepted by the Senate.[1] In 2021, the file was still pending because an addition to the Bill had been presented to Parliament. The addition concerns specific measures for nuisance-causing aliens. The Bill stresses the difference between criminal detention and detention of aliens, which does not have a punitive character. It proposes an improvement in detention conditions for aliens who are placed in detention at the border and on the territory. For instance, aliens would be free to move within the centre for at least twelve hours per day.

Persons in detention have a right to health care, either provided by a doctor appointed by the centre or by a doctor of their own choosing. This right to health care is provided in the Bill regarding return and detention of aliens.[2] Both aliens in border detention and aliens in territorial detention have a right to health care. This health care includes a basic health care package, which is equal to the health care provided outside of detention. Finally, specialised care can be provided to asylum seekers with mental health issues. There are now psychologists present at the detention centre. If the regular facilities of the detention centre cannot meet the medical needs of the alien, he or she will be transferred to another wing of the detention centre or a prison psychiatric hospital. In case of the latter, asylum seekers will be kept separate from criminally detained persons.[3]

There are no known problems of overcrowding. Due to a reserve both on the short term and on the long run, overcrowding is highly unlikely.

No recent information is available as to whether sufficient clothing is given. Based on the Bill regarding return and detention of aliens, detainees have a right to sufficient clothing or a sum of money to allow them to buy sufficient clothing themselves.

According to the Bill regarding return and detention of aliens, detained asylum seekers will be allowed to leave their living areas within the detention centre between the hours of 8 am and 10 pm. During these hours a programme is offered. Detained asylum seekers are able to make phone calls, go outside in the recreational area of the detention centre, receive visitors (four hours a week), access spiritual counselling, visit the library, watch movies, and do sports and other recreational activities such as singing, dancing, drawing and painting. All units have access to the internet. The asylum seeker can independently gather news and information, for example concerning their country of origin.[4] Most of these conditions are already set in place, except for the possibility for people to leave their living areas. Currently they can leave between 8 am – 12 pm and 1 pm – 5 pm. Since the beginning of the pandemic, this timetable underwent significant changes. Detainees were sometimes only allowed to leave their rooms for 1 hour a day due to lack of staff in the facilities. Overall, they were not allowed to leave their living areas for more than 3,5-4 hours a day.[5]

The COVID-19 pandemic also caused various additional problems. Soap was not available for a very long time.[6] In response to a complaint procedure from a detainee, the director of the Detention Centre stated that it was not his responsibility to provide soap, and migrants could use the shampoo or shower gel that was available in their standard packages. Moreover, up until January 2021, it was forbidden to wear facemasks since, according to the Minister of Legal Protection, personnel should have been able to see the emotions on the faces of the detainees for security reasons.[7] On 22 of January however, it became mandatory to wear face masks. Detention centres do no systematically share COVID-19 statistics. However, cases of COVID-19 infections were reported. For example, on 16 October 2020, two detainees were infected, which meant that 142 detainees had to be put under quarantine measures.[8]

As opposed to criminal detainees, migrant detainees are not allowed to access work or education inside the detention centre.

In a report on the detention regime, Amnesty International described the detention conditions as unnecessarily resembling those of a prison.[9] Amnesty expects that the new Bill regarding return and detention of aliens will improve these conditions, but considers that a more fundamental change would be needed.

Another report from Amnesty International, Doctors from the World and Immigration Detention Hotline (Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie) showed the frequent use of isolation cells in the detention centres.[10] Detainees have been put in isolation 1,176 times in 2019. Isolation is an order measure for the safety of the personnel, other detainees or the detainee himself, but also a punishment. The organizations give a few recommendations to reduce isolating detainees: isolation should not be used for punishment, nor as a collective measure, it should also be used much less and for a shorter period.

[1]  Bill regarding return and detention of aliens (2015-2016), 34309/2. Information on the current state of affairs can be found on the website of the Senate at:

[2] Ibid.

[3] Bill regarding return and detention of aliens (2015-2016), 34309/2.

[4] Bill regarding return and detention of aliens (2015-2016), 34309/2.

[5] Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie, ‘Covid in migrant detention’, 1 December 2021, available in Dutch at:

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, Answers to questions of Members of Parliament by the Minister of Legal Protection, 9 February 2021, available in Dutch at:

[8] NOS, ‘142 mensen in quarantaine in Rotterdams detentiecentrum’, available in Dutch at:

[9] Amnesty International: Geen cellen en handboeien! Het beginsel van minimale beperkingen in het regime van vreemdelingendetentie, 2018, available in Dutch at:

[10] Amnesty International, Doctors from the World, Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie (2020): Isolatie in Vreemdelingendetentie, available in Dutch:

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation