Registration procedure: In January 2019 the State Secretary of Justice introduced a new policy regarding the registration procedure. At the start of the registration procedure every asylum seeker has to complete an extensive form and an (extensive) interview. Given the extensiveness of the form and its follow up interview, the first interview during the general asylum procedure is now less extensive. It has become a so-called verification interview.
Delay in the rest and preparation period: As a general rule, the rest and preparation period takes six days after which the actual asylum procedure starts. In 2018, this period has been considerably extended. In fact due to capacity problems within the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), the rest and preparation period took about 12 months before the general asylum procedure could start. This has not changed in 2019. The rest and preparation period still takes about 12 months (in general 47 weeks) before the general asylum procedure takes place. In February 2020, almost 9,000 asylum seekers were still awaiting – some of them for almost two years – the start of their asylum procedure. The Secretary of State of Justice announced that it will be difficult to reduce the delay by 2021, but measures are being taken to limit the delay.
The limitation of free legal assistance: In previous years the Dutch administration announced that free legal assistance at first instance would be limited to the moment when an asylum seeker has to submit his or her views against the IND’s written intention to reject the application. As a result, the applicant will not be able to discuss his or her case before the start of the actual asylum procedure. To implement this measure, the Decree on Legal Aid Fees (Besluit vergoedingen rechtsbijstand) has to be amended. The Secretary of Justice has announced that a proposal to adjust the Decree is currently being prepared. A feasibility test (ex ante uitvoeringstoets) as requested by the Dutch Parliament has been executed and the State Secretary of Justice & Security responded to this by announcing that free legal assistance in 2021 will be available only then when the IND has issued a written intention to reject the asylum application. In 2020 a legal proposal to amend the Decree on Legal Aid Fees will be presented to Parliament.
Subsequent asylum applications: A new procedure regarding lodging and assessing subsequent asylum applications is applicable since 1 July 2019, which has led to amendments to the Aliens Circular as well as to the introduction of a new IND Work Instruction. Relevant is whether the asylum seeker has filled in a fully completed subsequent asylum application and whether the IND will not continue to examine the subsequent application because the asylum seeker lacks providing (sufficient) relevant information to the opinion of the IND. Another relevant adjustment is that an interview does not always take place when assessing a subsequent asylum application. The Dutch Council for Refugees is opposed to the abolition of the interview during a subsequent asylum procedure.
Length of stay in reception centres: Due to the long waiting times at the IND, applicants spend longer periods in the reception centres. The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) has announced that they will need 5,000 extra places in 2020 due to this development. At the end of 2019, the State Secretary announced she wanted to open separate reception locations for applicants originating from safe countries of origin. However, at this point there have been no concrete plans for these locations.
The Dutch Council for Refugees reported that the excessive waiting time in the rest and preparation period created tension in the centers and serious concerns about family reunification.
Supervised reception centres: Throughout 2019, asylum seekers aged 16 or more who seriously violated the house rules of reception centres or who demonstrated aggressive behavior could be transferred to so-called Extra Guidance and Supervision Locations (Extra begeleiding en toezichtlocaties, EBTL). However, following an assessment which demonstrated their limited efficiency, the State Secretary announced the closure of EBTL at the end of 2019. They will be replaced with so-called Enforcement and Supervision Location (Handhaving and Toezichtlocatie, HTL). The difference with the EBTL is that these supervised reception centres do not aim to change the behavior of the concerned persons, but rather to isolate them from asylum seekers placed in regular structures.
Detention of asylum seekers
Border detention after the rejection of an asylum application: When an asylum application has been rejected at the border the detention of an asylum seeker at the border can be continued. However, the Council of State ruled that, following the Gnandi and C.S.J. judgments of the CJEU, the present legal basis for prolonging detention at the border after the rejection of an asylum application at least during the period for lodging an appeal is not valid. In this regard a bill has been presented at Parliament to adjust the Aliens Act to make it possible to continue the detention of rejected asylum seekers at the border. Until the Aliens Act has been amended, rejected asylum seekers have to be placed in an open reception facility.
Content of international protection
Housing: More people are awaiting housing once they obtained an international protection status. On 6 January 2020, there were 5,385 beneficiaries of international protection residing in COA reception centres and awaiting housing, compared to 4,543 at 25 February 2019.
Family reunification: There can be difficulties in applying for family reunification within the 3-month time limit due to misinformation, for example. Another bottleneck is the requirement that identity and family ties have to be made plausible by official documents, and in absence thereof, with sufficient unofficial documents of explanations as to why there are no official documents. DNA-research will be carried out and/or interviews will be held only if there are sufficient documents or plausible explanations. However, if the documents are not sufficient and/or explanations are not considered plausible, the IND will reject the application without further research. The Council of State has ruled that this policy is in accordance with the ruling of the CJEU of 13 March 2019
State Secretary of Justice & Security, “Kamerbrief over voortgang Programma Flexibilisering Asielketen”, 15 November 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2OnYffX ; State Secretary of Justice & Security, “Reactie op uitvoeringstoetsen over de maatregel rechtsbijstand”, 19 December 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/395aiXK .
Dutch Council for Refugees, Gevangen in een vastgelopen asielsysteem: Gevolgen en verhalen uit de praktijk, November 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2vSP2pW, Dutch Council for Refugees, Timeline of the delays in the asylum procedure, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/33cd9fB.
CJEU, Case C-181/16, Sadikou Gnandi vs Belgium, 19 June 2018.
CJEU, Case C-269/18 (order of the Court), Staatssecretaris van Veiligheid en Justitie vs. C; and J and S vs. Staatssecretaris van Veiligheid en Justitie, 5 July 2018.
Bill from 2 September 2019, Parliamentary documents, no 35271, available in Dutch at https://bit.ly/2vKgYvM.
Council of State, Decision 201902483/1/V1, 16 September 2019.