Nieuws, 6 oktober 2022

Court ruling offers crystal clear instructions to Dutch government

The court has issued a crystal clear and much-needed ruling in the summary proceedings the Dutch Council for Refugees recently initiated to improve the inhumane reception conditions for asylum seekers. Not only did the court rule that asylum seekers should never again end up sleeping on the streets outside Ter Apel, but also that the reception in all emergency shelters must soon meet basic requirements. The reception crisis is most visible in Ter Apel, but has been ongoing in tents, gymnasiums and event halls all around the country for over a year now.

Court ruling

Among other things, the court ruled that:

  • With immediate effect, asylum seekers should be offered accommodation and should no longer be made to sleep on the streets of Ter Apel and unaccompanied minors must leave the application centre within five days;
  • With immediate effect, vulnerable asylum seekers should not be admitted to the emergency shelter and there must be access to clean drinking water and decent meals everywhere;
  • Within four weeks, all children in emergency shelters must have access to education and play facilities;
  • Within nine months, all asylum seekers and refugees must be housed in locations that meet the minimum legal requirements. 

No reason for joy

Frank Candel, chair of the Dutch Council for Refugees: 'This is a crystal clear and much-needed ruling, but no reason for joy yet. It’s sad that something as basic as humane reception requires a court ruling, and we won’t rest until all asylum seekers no longer have to sleep in tents, gymnasiums or event halls. No court ruling can help them right now. But it’s an important step: the court has given State Secretary van der Burg clear instructions. It’s now up to him to implement this ruling quickly.'

The biggest problems must be solved immediately, and within nine months at the latest, and the reception of all asylum seekers must meet certain requirements again. Candel: 'State Secretary van der Burg must come up with a plan as soon as possible. The current agreements on solving the reception crisis are insufficient. But he has several means at his disposal. And we’d like to contribute to the solution and help the state to comply with the court ruling as soon as possible.'

Improving reception quickly

The government must now do everything possible to provide humane reception as soon as possible. Candel: 'This can be done in various ways. For example, by invoking state emergency law, as they did for refugees from Ukraine. Or writing an emergency law to distribute the reception of asylum seekers fairly among all municipalities. The secretary of state can also use state-owned properties like barracks and office buildings.

Candel: ‘We filed these summary proceedings because around 18,000 asylum seekers have already been received under harmful conditions. Refugee reception has hit an all-time humanitarian low ever since last year; and it can no longer be considered a temporary situation. This crisis is not the result of a sudden increase in the number of asylum requests, but of years of policy failures. The situation has also become impossible for thousands of employees in the asylum chain, especially at COA (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, red.). There have been repeated deadlocks on agreements between the national government and municipalities and the government has been unwilling to use resources to force a breakthrough. So we felt compelled to take this step. We did so with pain in our hearts. We truly hope that something as basic as humane reception will never again have to be submitted to the courts.'

Government launches appeal

Update: A day after the decision of the court, the government announced it would launch an appeal. Last December, the Court of Appeal ruled that the essence of the earlier ruling remains in effect: the reception of asylum seekers is harmful and does not meet the minimum legal requirements. Thus, the verdict that the reception is unlawful and must be improved stands. Unfortunately, the deadline that the state was given to put the reception for all asylum seekers back in order disappeared in the ruling. Frank Candel, chairman of the Dutch Council for Refugees: 'We are pleased that the ruling has remained in effect in essence, but find the lack of a deadline problematic. Deadline or not, the State Secretary has been given a clear assignment.'