The report was previously updated in March 2021.
- Key asylum statistics: In 2021, a total of 26,520 applications for international protection were lodged in the Netherlands, mainly by Syrian (8,520), Afghan (3,310) and Turkish (2,480) nationals. The number of first-time applicants was 24,725, while subsequent applications presented were 1,810. This marks an important increase compared to 2020, when the total number of applications was 15,320. The overall recognition rate at first instance stood at 73.1% (i.e. 47.4% refugee status, 17.4% subsidiary protection and 8.3% humanitarian protection). It reached 95.5% Afghans and 91.7% for Syrians. Other nationalities such as Algerians and Moroccans received instead mostly reject decisions, with a rejection rate of 100% and 91.5% respectively.
- Reform of the Aliens Decree regarding the Regular Asylum Procedure (“Track 4”): As announced, the amendments of the Aliens Decree regarding the General Asylum Procedure entered into force on 25 June 2021. The amendments formally provide rules for the registration/reporting procedure and relative interview, that takes place before the start of the rest and preparation period, while cancelling the first interview during the Regular Asylum Procedure. This means that, during the registration/ reporting interview, asylum seekers – including unaccompanied minors – are briefly questioned by the IND about the reasons for fleeing their country of origin. During such procedure, asylum seekers – except for the ones at Schiphol Airport who fall under the border procedure – do not benefit from legal assistance nor receive individualised information on the asylum procedure from the Dutch Council for Refugees or other NGOs. Asylum seekers do receive an information brochure from the Immigration and Naturalisation Services (IND) that contains general information about the asylum procedure. As a result, applicants might not be sufficiently informed about the potential impact of their statements on the outcome of their application. Furthermore, the amendments foresee a shortening of the Regular Asylum Procedure from eight to six days, by abolishing the first interview. It should be noted, however, that several grounds for extending the regular asylum procedure beyond six days were introduced. The Dutch Council for Refugees is of the opinion that the grounds for extending the regular procedure will not prevent assessing many asylum cases in the extended procedure, unless the capacity problems within the IND are solved.
- Treatment of Afghan applicants in the Netherlands: The policy regarding the suspension of decisions on Afghan nationals’ and the temporary suspension of returns to Afghanistan due to a temporary uncertain and insecure situation in the country has entered into force 26 August 2021. It originally applied for six months and has recently been prolonged for another six, until August 2022. This policy is in accordance with Article 43 Aliens Act and Article 45 (4) Aliens Act. This means that, as a rule, the IND has 18 months for taking a decision on new and pending asylum applications of Afghan nationals, while rejected asylum seekers from Afghanistan will not have to return to their home country during the six months the policy applies. They will also have access to reception facilities. This policy does not apply to Afghan nationals who fall under the scope of the Dublin Regulation, who have already obtained international protection in another Member State and who pose a threat to public order or national security.
- Treatment of Afghan evacuees: Since August 2021, approximately 2,000 Afghan nationals were evacuated from Afghanistan to the Netherlands. Many of the evacuees used to work for the Dutch government in Afghanistan and were recognised to be at risk of persecution in their home country following the takeover by the Taliban. The applications of these asylum seekers were processed through the short asylum procedure in ad hoc emergency facilities created for them. Although the policy regarding the suspension of decisions (see above) is applicable, the applications of evacuated Afghan asylum seekers will be processed and, as far as known, most of them have obtained an asylum permit valid for 5 years.
- Subsequent asylum applications: In the case H. v. the Staatssecretaris van Justitie of 10 June 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that, when the authenticity of documents submitted in the context of a subsequent application cannot be established or its source objectively verified, it cannot automatically be considered not to constitute a ‘new element or finding’ within the meaning of Article 40 Asylum Procedures Directive (APD). Furthermore, the CJEU ruled that, according to Article 40 APD, read together with Article 4(1) and (2) of the Qualification Directive, the assessment of evidence submitted in support of a subsequent application is the same as the assessment of evidence supporting a first application. Dutch policy should be brought in line with this judgment. According to the Dutch Council for Refugees, this has still not occurred.
- Beneficiaries of international protection from Greece: The Council of State ruled on 28 July 2021 that beneficiaries of international protection from Greece could not be sent back to Greece without facing a risk of ill-treatment in violation of Article 3 ECHR. The State Secretary should thus provide a clear motivation justifying the decision to return them to Greece based on the criteria from the Ibrahim case. The State Secretary started an investigation into the situation of beneficiaries of protection in Greece.
- Re-evaluation of ‘safe countries of origin’: The IND had to re-evaluate its list of ´safe countries of origin´ following a decision from the Council of State on 7 April 2021, which ruled against the IND’s use of the ´quick reassessment´ procedure. This period of mandatory reassessment was completed on 4 November 2021, resulting in deleting Algeria as a safe country of origin from the list.
- Dublin time limits and suspensive effect: In the course of 2021, the Council of State referred multiple prejudicial questions about the suspensive effect in Dublin cases to the CJEU. These questions related to the application of the so-called ‘chain rule’ in Dublin III, whether a suspensive effect granted as a result of an application for residence in the Netherlands on regular grounds can also be regarded as suspensive effect in accordance with Article 27(3) of the Dublin Regulation (case C-338/21); and whether the Secretary of State can request the suspensive effect in the onward appeal stage (case C-556/21). All the above-mentioned cases are still pending in front of the CJEU.
- Suspension of Dublin transfers to Malta: On 15 December 2021, the Council of State ruled that the principle of mutual trust no longer applies to Malta. The Council of State came to this conclusion based on recent information from the NGO aditus foundation, which shows that Dublin returnees will be detained upon return. Several reports, such as the CPT report of 10 March 2021, show that detention conditions in Malta are very poor and that access to legal aid has deteriorated. In particular, the Council of State referred to the AIDA Malta country report indicating that NGOs have not observed any improvements in detention conditions, nor have they sufficient access to detention centres.
- Return decisions for unaccompanied minors: Dutch policy stipulates that minors who are over 15 years of age at the date of their asylum request receive a return decision without examining whether there are adequate reception facilities in the country of return. For minors under 15 years of age, there is the option of granting a special residence permit in case there are no adequate reception facilities. The Regional Court of Den Bosch referred prejudicial questions to the CJEU on whether a return decision could be taken against a minor without investigating if there are adequate reception facilities, whether a Member State is permitted to make distinctions on the basis of the age of a minor (15-/15+), and whether it is permitted under Union law to adopt a return decision against a minor, but not undertake any action to remove the applicant until he turns 18. In the case of TQ (C-441/19) of 14 January 2021, the CJEU ruled that a Member State must ascertain – before adopting a return decision – that an unaccompanied minor will have access to adequate reception facilities upon return. Furthermore, a Member State may not differentiate based on the age of the minor and once the Member State adopts a return decision, the return must actually be carried out. The CJEU also clarified that Member States are under the obligation to apply the principle of the best interest of the child at all stages of the (return) procedure. This ruling shows that the Dutch policy relating to unaccompanied children who receive a return decision is not in line with EU law.
- Response to the crisis in Ukraine as of 5 April 2022: Ukrainians who hold a biometric passport are allowed to enter the Netherlands and remain in the country for 90 days without a visa. Ukrainians who do not have a biometric passport have to apply for a Schengen visa. The visa exemption and the Schengen visa could be extended for 90 additional days. Dutch municipalities are opening special reception locations in order to accommodate persons who fall within the scope of the TPD. The purpose is to shelter 50,000 persons. The scope of the Directive has been significantly extended; persons that can benefit from temporary protection are for example all those who held a valid residence permit, and left the country after 26 November 2021. Dutch authorities announced that persons who fall within the scope of the TPD and want to benefit from its provisions will have to apply for asylum; they will be considered as asylum seekers falling under a specific asylum regime, which was originally created with the implementation of the TPD into Dutch law in 2004. The persons who fall under the Directive will remain in the country as asylum seekers granted temporary protection, and as such entitled to rights as laid down in the TPD. Furthermore, two policies regarding the suspension of decisions on asylum applications of Ukrainian nationals and non-Ukrainian nationals from Ukraine and the temporary suspension on returns to Ukraine have entered into force. These measures will be valid for (at least) 6 months and are subjected to certain exceptions (Dublin cases, persons having been granted protection in another EU Member State, commission of war crimes/threat to public order or national security). Dutch authorities did not provide an explanation regarding the introduction of such policies, but it is likely that they entered into force on behalf of persons who are from Ukraine, but do not want to benefit from the TPD, or do not fall within the scope of the Directive.
- Reception crisis: From September 2021, the Netherlands started facing a reception crisis. By the end of the year, a total of 34,088 people were accommodated by Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA), 8,500 more than in 2020, when occupied places were 27,800. People have been forced to sleep on the floor outside the first reception centre of Ter Apel, waiting their turn to register their application and be transferred to one of the many Emergency Reception Centres that have opened (and closed) around the country from September onwards.
- Reception of Afghan evacuees: Afghan evacuees were stationed at locations provided by the Ministry of Defence, given that many of the evacuees were former employees of said Ministry. One of these locations was a large camp with tents in the woods close to Nijmegen, called Heumensoord hosting 1,000 people. The location was previously used during the last reception crisis in 2015, and has often been criticised because of the inadequate facilities, a lack of privacy for its residents, and the fact that no financial allowances were provided to its hosts.
Detention of asylum seekers
- Effects of the pandemic on detained asylum seekers: The COVID-19 pandemic entailed specific problems for detained asylum seekers. Due to health restrictions, detainees were sometimes only allowed to leave their rooms for 1 hour per day due to staff shortages, and overall not more than 3.5-4 hours per day. Soap was not available for various months. Up until January 2021, disinfecting gel was not available and it was forbidden to wear facemasks for security reasons. Disinfecting gel later became available, but was accessible only in outside areas that detainees can access only one hour per day. From 22 January 2021, in contrast with previous rules, it became mandatory to wear facemasks inside detention facilities.
- No reasonable prospect of removal: For three important countries of origin, in 2021 courts ruled that there was no reasonable prospect of removal due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unwillingness of the authorities of the countries of origin of the involved detainees to cooperate in the return process: Morocco, Algeria and Senegal.
Content of international protection
- Naturalisation: Since 1 January 2022, a new Civic Integration Act was introduced. The civic integration examination entails a language knowledge at B1 level. In 2021, there were no changes in the conditions established for deeming a beneficiary of protection sufficiently integrated to obtain Dutch nationality. In 2022, no additional conditions were introduced through the Civic Integration Act.
- Housing: In 2021, reception centres continued registering shortages in terms of accommodation places, due to the consequences of COVID-19 and to the limited availability of rented houses in the Netherlands. As of 1 November 2021, the so called “Hotel- en accomodatieregeling” (Hotel- and Accommodation Arrangement) was introduced, allowing status holders awaiting regular housing to be hosted in a temporary accommodation at the municipality that will later be responsible for providing long term housing for that particular person. A temporary accommodation could be a hotel, a holiday bungalow or a B&B, where the status holder may remain for a maximum of 6 months. After that, the municipality must have found a permanent house or accommodation for the protection beneficiary. The arrangement is only open to single beneficiaries without children. The beneficiary also must not be vulnerable. Status holders remain entitled to the COA’s basic provisions, such as a weekly allowance and access to medical care, while receiving an additional payment of 75€ per week from the COA. The benefits granted by the COA will stop as soon as the municipality regular housed the status holder. The municipality receives a payment (8280€ plus 1000€ for guidance) for every status holder that participates in this arrangement.
- Sudan revocations: The Sudan reassessment project was finished in 2021, resulting in 0 revocations on the ground of ceased circumstances. Most of the status holders kept their permits on other grounds as many groups were considered to be at risk in Sudan.
- Criteria and conditions for family reunification: More information is given on the criteria for family reunification involving the proof of identity and family tie of the family member, in the situation that one of the submitted documents is considered as false. There are three ways to dispute the conclusion of the Identity and Document Investigation Unit. The current long waiting periods for consular services have been a reason of concern. In other family reunification cases, in which a refugee-sponsor is not allowed to submit the application within the favourable framework for refugees, the application has to be submitted within the regular framework addressed at both foreigners and Dutch citizens who wish to apply for family reunification with a third-country national.
 Amendment of the Aliens Decree, In verband met het regelen van de aanmeldfase en het vervallen van het eerste gehoor in de algemene asielprocedure, Staatsblad 2021, 250, 25 June 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3Fkb7LK.
 KST 19637, No 2743, 11 June 2021.
 Cases C-323/21; C-324/21; C-325/21, Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:983; ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:984; ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:985, 19 May 2021.
 Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:1124, 26 May 2021.
 Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:1929, 1 September 2021.
 Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:2791, 15 December 2021.
 However, this permit is rarely granted. The Council for Refugees approximates that the permit has been granted in less than 10 cases since the introduction of the permit in 2012. Conditions are laid down in Section B8/6 Aliens Circular.
 CJEU, TQ v Staatssecretaris van Justitie en Veiligheid, C-441/19, 14 January 2021.
 Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:696, 2 April 2021 (Morocco), Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:2092, 17 September 2021 (Algeria), Regional Court Arnhem, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2021:9994, 10 September 2021 (Senegal).
 KST 32824, nr.346, Brief Voorbereiding ontwerp- algemene maatregelen van bestuur tot wijziging van het Vreemdelingenbesluit 2000 en het Besluit naturalisatietoets in verband met een overgangssituatie na de inwerkingtreding van de Wet inburgering 2021 (Letter from the State Secretary to the parlement about the consequences of the new Civic Integration Act for obtaining long term permit or the Dutch nationality).
 Stcrt. nr. 45592, 2021.