Conditions in detention facilities


Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 30/11/20


Dutch Council for Refugees Visit Website

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 2019 the file was still pending. 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.


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 are 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.[3] Most of these conditions are already set in place, with the exception of the possibility for people to leave their living areas. Currently they can leave between 8 am – 12 pm and 1 pm – 5 pm.


Finally, specialised care can be provided to asylum seekers with mental health issues. Health care in detention centres had been subjected to a major debate in the Netherlands due to the death of the Russian asylum seeker Dolmatov and of a South African asylum seeker, both in the detention centre in Rotterdam. This gave rise to investigations that pointed out several shortcomings in the access to psychological care for persons in detention.[4] 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.[5]


In a report on the detention regime, Amnesty International described the detention conditions as resembling unnecessarily to a prison.[6] Amnesty expects that the new Bill regarding return and detention of aliens will improve these conditions, but considers that a more fundamental change is still needed.

[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:


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

[4]Ministry of Security and Justice, Report ‘Onderzoek betreffende het overlijden van de heer Dolmatov in het Detentiecentrum Rotterdam’, April 2013, available in Dutch at:; Report ‘Onderzoek naar het overlijden van een asielzoeker in het Detentiecentrum Rotterdam’, February 2016, available in Dutch at:

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

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


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