Frequently Asked Questions

We stand up for the interests of refugees and asylum seekers. This includes providing answers to frequently asked questions. And that we keep a close eye on the facts and figures surrounding this issue. Therefore we have collected a collection of frequently asked questions and answers on these pages.

What are refugees, asylum seekers and status holders?

  • A refugee is someone who is persecuted in his home country and who cannot get protection from this persecution there. For example, because of religion, political persuasion, sexual orientation or membership of an ethnic or social group.
  • Not every asylum seeker is a refugee. An asylum seeker is someone who asks another country for protection. The asylum procedure investigates whether an asylum seeker is a refugee.
  • If an asylum application is granted, someone receives refugee status. Many government services and institutions therefore also refer to status holders. Status holders are therefore recognised refugees with a residence permit.
  • Other migrants who are not in danger in their country of origin are not refugees. If they apply for asylum, they are therefore not eligible for an asylum permit.

Why do people from 'safe countries' apply for asylum?

  • The Dutch government uses a so-called 'List of safe countries of origin' to speed up the asylum procedure for asylum seekers from these countries. The Dutch Council for Refugees considers the term 'safe country' to be misleading. Because in addition to countries such as Belgium and Canada, it also includes countries from which people do have to flee. For example, homosexuals from Jamaica sometimes have to flee for their lives, and some asylum seekers from Morocco need protection for political reasons.
  • Yet the vast majority of asylum seekers from these "safe countries" are not entitled to protection. Some still try to apply for asylum in the hope of getting a better life in the Netherlands. Since 2016, some 3,500 asylum seekers from safe countries apply for asylum in the Netherlands every year. This amounts to about 20% of all asylum applications. The Netherlands rejects asylum applications from safe countries of origin quickly, on average after 4 weeks. The Dutch Council for Refugees monitors their procedure critically, to prevent refugees from being rejected unjustly at the speed.

How does the government check whether an asylum seeker is also a refugee?

Asylum seekers must prove for themselves that they are in danger in their country of origin and are entitled to protection in the Netherlands. To do this, they must go through the asylum procedure. This procedure is very strict in the Netherlands. Without convincing evidence, asylum seekers are quickly given the benefit of the doubt. Many applications for asylum are rejected (rightly or wrongly). 

How many asylum seekers are granted residence permits?

This fluctuates quite a bit. In 2019 (January to September), about 30% of the asylum applications were granted. Another 30% were rejected or withdrawn. And about 40% of the applications were determined to be assessed by another EU country, for example because the asylum seeker had previously applied for asylum there. The prioritization of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) also has an influence on the average granting rates. At present, the IND gives priority to asylum seekers from safe countries and to asylum seekers who are sent back to another European country. Therefore, 'promising' refugees have to wait much longer for their asylum procedure.

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How many refugees does the Netherlands take in compared to other countries?

In 2019, over 70 million people worldwide are fleeing, or have fled to another country. About 26 million refugees have left their country of origin. Countries receiving the most refugees are Turkey (3.7 million), Pakistan (1.4 million) and Uganda (1.2 million). In the Netherlands, 12,570 refugees and family members who travelled later received a residence permit in 2018. Of all the asylum seekers who came to Europe in 2018, 4% applied for asylum in the Netherlands. (Source: UNHCR)

Why does the Dutch Council for Refugees help asylum seekers who want to return?

Asylum seekers whose asylum applications have been rejected must reconsider their future options. The outcome of the asylum procedure is often a great shock. Our volunteers can help to get a realistic picture of the remaining options. We give a realistic estimate of the chance to still get legal residence in the Netherlands, if there is one. And we have a network of organizations in countries of origin with which we can facilitate a dignified and independent return. We cannot cooperate with return to an unsafe situation.

Are the people in the boats on the Mediterranean Sea refugees or migrants?

Both refugees and migrants try to cross the Mediterranean Sea in boats. The composition of this group fluctuates quite a bit. In 2018, Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq were among the most common countries of origin of asylum seekers venturing across (Source: UNHCR). These are countries where many refugees come from. From other countries also come many migrants who travel to Europe for other reasons than to seek protection.

How many refugees come to the Netherlands?

The number of asylum applications in the Netherlands has been strongly influenced over the years by the crises and wars that were going on at the time. In the early 1990s, the number of refugees increased due to the war in former Yugoslavia, and later again due to war in Afghanistan and Kosovo. After the 1990s, the number of asylum seekers declined sharply until the Syrian civil war broke out and the number began to rise again in 2014. After 2015, this decreased again rapidly to 15,000 to 20,000 applications per year. An asylum application does not yet mean a residence permit. In 2018, 65% of the assessments of asylum applications were negative.

Where do refugees come from who end up in the Netherlands?

Where refugees come from depends mainly on where in the world there is war. In recent years, most asylum seekers in the Netherlands came from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran.

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In search of safety, refugees left behind everything they hold dear. Now they have to rebuild their lives in a country that is foreign to them. The Dutch Council for Refugees helps refugees on their way to a new future.