Freedom of movement


Country Report: Freedom of movement Last updated: 18/03/21


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The stage and type of asylum procedure applicable to the asylum seeker is relevant relating to the type of accommodation he or she is entitled to. Every asylum seeker not subject to the border procedure starts in the COL (Central Reception Centre) and is transferred to the POL (Process Reception Centre). After this the asylum seeker is transferred to an AZC (Centre for Asylum Seekers) if he or she is still entitled to reception conditions, that is if he or she (i) is granted a permit, (ii) is referred to the extended asylum procedure, (iii) lodges an appeal with suspensive effect, or (iv) is entitled to a four week departure period (see Criteria and Restrictions).


Moreover, asylum seekers can be moved to another AZC due to the closure of the centre they are currently staying at or because this serves the execution of the asylum procedure, e.g. in order to avoid that the AZC is so full this would create tension amongst the residents. It may also happen that the applicant has to relocate from one reception centre to another if their case changes “tracks” during the procedure, for example if they are moved from the accelerated procedure (“Track 2”) to the regular procedure (“Track 4”).


There is no appeal available against ‘procedural’ transfers (movements) from COL/POL to AZC. Indirectly there is an appeal available against a transfer to another AZC but in practice this does not happen often.[1]


With regard to the transfer of families with children and unaccompanied minors, a report was written by Defence for Children, Kerk in Actie, UNICEF, the Dutch Council for Refugees and War Child. The report makes several recommendations to improve the situation of children in reception centres, for example not to move children from one place to another. The Secretary of State has acknowledged the need to minimise the movements these children make during the asylum procedure.[2] However, similar recommendations are made more in a recent general report on the living conditions of children in reception centres.[3]


In 2019, there were 2,540 transfers from one AZC to another, out of which 690 were requested by the applicants themselves, 1,650 were requested by the COA, less than 5 were forced and 200 were due to the closure of centres. The numbers of transfers in 2020 are not available.[4]


AZC are so-called open centres in which the freedom of movement of asylum seekers is not restricted. This entails that asylum seekers are free to go outside if they please. However, there is a weekly duty to report (meldplicht) and if asylum seekers fail to report themselves twice the reception conditions will be withdrawn.[5]


Rejected asylum seekers, whose claims are rejected without any legal remedies, are not entitled to reception and may be placed in locations where their freedom of movement is restricted (Vrijheidsbeperkende locatie, VBL), such as family housing (Gezinslocatie, GL). An applicant is transferred to a VBL if he or she is willing to cooperate in establishing departure and there is a possibility to depart. In case of a family with minor children cooperation is not required for the transfer to a GL. In these centres they are not detained but their freedom is restricted to a certain municipality. Although this is not really controlled by the authorities, asylum seekers have to report six days a week (daily except on Sundays). It is therefore difficult to leave the municipality in practice.[6] The penalty for not reporting can be a fine or even criminal detention or an indication that the asylum seeker is not willing to cooperate on his or her return. It can further lead to pre-removal detention.[7]


When the corona crisis broke out, the Lodewijk van Nassau Barracks in Zoutkamp became available as an emergency shelter for asylum seekers. The emergency location could accommodate 210 people. The asylum seekers were imposed a “strict area restriction” in connection with corona. That turned out to be so tight that the asylum seekers were not allowed to leave the site. After a visit, UNHCR reported that they were very concerned because many residents were frustrated because of the lack of information and the lack of clarity about the length of their stay in Zoutkamp.[8] The emergency accommodation at Zoutkamp closed on 12 May 2020.





[1]Regional Court Roermond, Decision No 09/29454, 2 March 2010. When reading this ruling, it should be noted that there is formally no distinction anymore between a return and an integration AZC.

[2]Defence for Children, Kerk in Actie, UNICEF the Netherlands, the Dutch Council for Refugees and War Child, Zo kan het ook! Aanbevelingen voor een betere situatie van kinderen in asielzoekerscentra, 18 November 2016, available in Dutch at

[3]Defence for Children, Kerk in Actie, UNICEF the Netherlands, the Dutch Council for Refugees, Stichting de Vrolijkheid and War Child, Werkgroep Kind in AZC, Leefomstandigheden van kinderen in asielzoekerscentra en gezinslocaties, 6 June 2016, available in Dutch at

[4]Ministry of Security and Justice, Rapportage vreemdelingenketen: January-December 2019, available in Dutch:, p 29. Ministry of Security and Justice, Rapportage Vreemdelingenketen: January – June 2020, available in Dutch at:

[5]Articles 19(1)(e) and 10(1)(b) RVA.

[6]These failed asylum seekers who are placed in a VBL or a GL are subject to the freedom restricted measures based on Article 56 in conjunction with Article 54 Aliens Act.

[7]Article 108 Aliens Act.

[8]UNHCR, UNHCR bezorgd over situatie noodonderdaklocatie Zoutkamp en stop asielprocedure, 23 April 2020, available in Dutch here:

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