Refugees in the '30 and now

Commence on Dutch Alien-act from august 1995

the removal policy, december 1997

Alien Act and Immigration policy in the Netherlands. Comments from Autonoom Centrum Amsterdam

The Dutch foreigner and asylum policy and the Alien Act, connected to the European, are directed at keeping out immigration and reducing the number of refugees and other immigrants that are inside. It's more and more restrictive, also rights from migrants already living here as well as rights from newcoming people are drastically limited.

The policy is based on short term and is short sighted. No serious study on durable solutions for causes of migration. The Dutch government organises this policy of deterrent together with its Schengen and European Union partners. There's a lot of 'harmonisation', so that none of the partners will be second to eachother.

In this area of measures against immigration, life for refugees, people out of procedure and other undocumented is more sad and perpectiveless than before. The ministry of Justice creates and keeps warm the myth of the 'real' and the 'unreal' refugee. Myth building to legitimate the alien policy. This policy is based on quota. The ministry of Justice counts a bit about which number of refugees/migrants she can use for her image-building. Furthermore she aims on drastic possibilities of deportation. Mass detention in expectation of deportation is the final step before deportation in the alien policy.

The ministry of Justice says the immigration diminishes since the introduction of her application centers, 'Aanmeldcentra', two border centers (a third one is following on the airport of Schiphol in January 1996). Here asylum seekers have to present themselves directly after entrance in Holland. There a selection takes place within 24 hours in 'chanceless' and 'chancefull' asylum requests. Those centers must have a deterrent effect on newcomers. The law and the European policy provide articles which make many asylum requests 'chanceless'. In only a few opportunities one has the right to appeal against the negative decision. Mostly in such situations one has the right to wait the outcome of the objections in Holland. An other effect of the selection in the 'Aanmeldcentra' is that the Dutch government pushes off the responsibility for refugees asking for asylum here to another country (country of first reception). Chanceless refugees that have to leave Holland immediately are dumped on central stations. When it's clear one arrived from one of the neighbor countries or third safe countries, as a list of means of prove must appoint, one will be handed over to the authorities of that country. Some of those asylum seekers are sent to Germany or Belgium with a trainticket within 24 hours. From the sanctioning of the law Third Safe Countries end january '95 till now, the proves of a possibility to stay in a third safe country must be rather hard and clear. The law has hardly been used up till now.

The last few years, measure after measure against immigration has been taken. Whilst introducing a new rule the next is already announced. Some examples of new measures:

* Intensification of the national interior control on foreigners with the Identification-law, the WID (Wet op de Identificatieplicht), and increase quota for tracing more illegals. So more police, more racist and razzia ID-controls, more cells, more police, and so on. The WID gives police, borderpolice and civil administration servants the possibility to control on ID by asking for passports or ID-cards in the street, on the workfloor, in the public transport, at administration acts, etc..

* Closing entrance to collective and common provisions for illegals, by total registration in the VAS (Foreigners Administrative System) and the GBA (Community Governmental Basic Administration). Joining of those registrationsystems will make survival for illegals very difficult then.

* Introducing the law 'Koppelingswet', which connects the right to basic and common provisions with the final permission to stay, to reside in the Netherlands. This means exclusion of illegals, e.g. from education when older than 16, from medical care in non- threatening situation etc..

* Intensification of MTV, the 'Mobiel Toezicht Vreemdelingen', mobile control on foreigners in the border area; the flying brigades from the military borderpolice on the south- and east- border of Holland. Border control re-introduced, after it was abolished for a period. Although there's free traffic and free border crossing for European and Schengen citizens and for trade, there's selected control for foreigners. Priority of MTV is to intercept refugees and to prevent illegal border-crossing. The MTV statistics show high numbers of forced returned foreigners.

So MTV succeeds in selecting immigrants and let them return. Or immigrants are forced to return, on their own, or MTV hands them over to police. This delivery can be to police of the Belgium or Germany, or to Dutch foreign-police. In the last case they can be detained till deportation. When one is stopped by MTV but asks for asylum, he or she must be sent to one of the 'Aanmeldcentra'.

* Refugeecamps on the European borderlines. Refugees trying to enter Europe/Schengen are prevented from entering and have no other choice than to stay at camps near borderlines.

* The long arm from the military borderpolice (marechaussee) which carry out pre-flight-controls in countries of origin and marechaussee that carries out gate-controls at Schiphol-airport.

* The obligation for airline companies to copy travel documents before transporting people to a country of destination. When neglecting this duty a sanction follows.

* The Dutch Foreign Affairs signs more and more agreements to countries about taking back refugees. Also agreements about taking back refugees are made. In exchange for taking back refugees there can be financial support from the Dutch government or trade-deals with those countries.

The Schengen agreements, as well as the law 'third safe countries' determine that a refugee can only ask for asylum once and one partner-country is responsible for the asylum application, the procedure and/or deportation.

* Imitating the European countries and harmonizing alien policies with them, Germany is a great forerunner, the Dutch government determines countries or areas of origin by law. Refugees from similar countries are excluded by this law from asylum.

* Discouragement of people by dumping them out of the asylum- procedure has become the unofficial policy. The ministry of justice denies them the right to a place in a reception center or a refugee house from the government.

* The next phase after arrival in the 'Aanmeldcentra' on the borderlines, after 24 hours maximum (kept under lock), is waiting further procedure in 'Opvangcentra', open asylum camps. Since a few months the ministry of justice introduced an experiment in a few of those camps: a short and quick procedure, without intervention of a judge. An official of the Immigration Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatie Dienst, IND) makes a decision about an asylum application; a legal aid worker or lawyer gives a reaction on the decision and the report. Together they can agree and finally decide on the application. When in the end the refugee doesn't agree he/she can go to court. The danger of this deliberation model is that agreements are made 'in one's room' and that private business is made. This deliberation model will keep itself alive, not necessarily in the interest of the refugee. When the asylum application is chancefull, this model can be okay for the refugee. But when it's so called chanceless, there won't be much careful treatment for the refugee. When he or she in the end goes for appeal, there won't be easily found a second opinion lawyer for the case.

The next phase after OC, 'Opvangcentra' are AZC, 'Asielzoekerscentra'. From OC many are deported or dumped as well, when one has good luck, he/she will be sent to an AZC.

When a final decision wasn't yet made because of appeals and intervention of the judge, it can still be made in this phase. So, many refugees get a negative decision and are kicked out of procedure and have to leave Holland.

A kind of temporary status of toleration (VVTV) is given more often to refugees. It's given to those who are not accepted as refugee but can also not be deported because it's still unsafe in the country of origin. This status can be finished every moment, the asylum application has to be cancelled for the time the VVTV continues. When after three years there's not a final decision, the VVTV will be a exchanged for a permanent status. The position and rights from VVTV-refugees are very weak.

* Detention camps are built more and bigger, in Europe as well as in Holland. Many prisons for illegal people, who stay in prisons for long periods, 6 months is not anymore an exception, although the alien act and the European Treatment on Human Rights say that a clandestine person can only be detained when deportation is very close. The prisoners have extremely few 'rights', as for example in the 'grenshospitium'. This is the 'border lodgement', where a great part of refugees had been detained directly after entering Holland by the airport.

Their asylum request is so called 'chanceless', reason why they are kept in prison, at least for four weeks. In such prisons refugees and clandestine are treated as criminals although they didn't commit any crime. The prisoners are isolated from society.

The prison-regime is very severe, in general a prisoner gets one hour a week visit and two hours a week sports, one hour a day fresh air outside. In april 1995 the function of the border prison was temporary changed, because more cells were needed for illegal migrants that were arrested in the streets.

The most recent proposal for a way of detention is a prison for refugees who lost their procedure and who cannot be deported because of technical problems. This prison comes in Ter Apel, on the north-east borderline of Holland. Mostly those refugees flew without passport or ID-documents. Or the country of origin doesn't cooperate to take back the refugee. In this prison (288 places), connected to an AZC (300 places), refugees will be detained for three months as the ministry says. Till now those refugees are free, which is a right. In general their procedure in camps takes eight months. For more and quicker 'success' for the ministry, special deportation-units will work on one's deportation in this prison. When deportation is not possible in three months, the refugee will be placed in the AZC-camp, except for when he/she didn't cooperate in the ID-research, whatever that may be. Anyhow: when one is in prison there really will not be any possibility for non-cooperation. And, it's rather cynical to ask a refugee to be cooperative to her/his own deportation. So, if one can't be deported within three months and doesn't get a place in an AZC- camp, one will be dumped in the street. Forced to continue an illegal life. Refugees and clandestine people without documents are more and more seen as 'danger to the public order and safety' (because they can go underground). It's a criminalising effect to emprison these unguilty people.

Where the Dutch government is proud for taking measures that decrease the immigration number, this doesn't say anything about the number of refugees worldwide, nor about the number that flee to Holland. Many refugees won't ask for asylum anymore, as it's known that refugees don't get a fair chance and most decisions are negative. This means the number of illegal and clandestine people grows. Refugees are made illegal, forced to live in illegality. They disappear, but they are here. Some ask for help from organisations like ours, the Autonoom Center in Amsterdam. Many remain invisible but they exist! Although they are mentioned in the statistics as the category 'deported'.

The future will demonstrate that compulsory immigration will not be caught in control-systems. Many will try to come here bypassing those systems. They will try everything to come here, as long as problems in their countries of origin have not been solved. We'll continue to protest politically against the admission policy. We'll continue to built networks to create real support for undocumented refugees and other illegals, such as SNIN, Solidarity Network for Illegals in the Netherlands. Autonoom Centrum Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Augustus 1995.