The Dutch Council for Refugees focuses primarily on countries at the external borders of the European Union. Many asylum seekers and refugees travel through these countries on their often hazardous journey to an EU country. At the outside borders of the EU humane reception conditions for asylum seekers are often lacking. Asylum seekers are sometimes held in detention centres for months on end or they end up sleeping in the street. Because of malfunctioning asylum systems they often do not have access to a fair asylum procedure.
We support a number of local refugee assisting organisations in improving the situation of asylum seekers at the borders of Europe. This support is based on the existing needs of our sister organisation. We are currently running NGO-twinning projects in Turkey and the Western Balkans. The projects focus on strengthening of these organisations through training and exchange of kowledge and know-how. Our projects are funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the EU, NUFFIC and other funds.
Macedonia is strategically an important country in the context of access of refugees to the EU. Nowadays many refugees flee through the so-called 'Balkan-route': via Greece through Macedonia and other Balkan countries to Western Europe. For a refugee to apply for asylum and to settle in Macedonia is difficult. The Macedonian asylum system is not yet well developed and refugees see little future perspective in Macedonia. Macedonia is a candidate member state of the European Union. One of the conditions for joining the EU is that the Macedonian asylum system is in line with the European rules and regulations so asylum seekers can get a fair and efficient procedure and receive refugee status when their asylum claim is accepted.
Our sister organisation MYLA (Macedonian Young Lawyers Association) is working hard to develop and strengthen their organization in order to better defend the rights and interests of refugees in Macedonia.
At the request of MYLA The Dutch Council for Refugees has developed a tailor made training programme for MYLA. The intensive training modules focus on topics such as communication, lobbying and collaboration between civil society and academics. We hope that MYLA will soon be able to even better influence and monitor protection of refugees and a fair and humane asylum policy in Macedonia.
Download a personal report of a study visit to the Netherlands by Ivan Kochovski.
This project is funded by the 'Tailor Made Training Programme' of EP-Nuffic: Center for internationalisation and international cooperation in education.
Turkey borders countries from which many people are forced to flee, like Syria, Iraq and Iran. Turkey accommodates an estimated number of over two million refugees and the number is rising. Turkey is one of the transit countries to the EU. The Turkish reception of refugees and the asylum procedure are still in a developing stage. It is not easy to work and build up a life in Turkey. Local civil society has an important role in improving situations for refugees and in raising awareness on protecting refugee rights. The current political developments in Turkey and the EU make the importance of this support even more clear. Therefore the Dutch Council for Refugees focuses on empowering local refugee-assisting NGOs in Turkey.
Important steps have been taken to achieve a fair asylum policy, but there is still much work to be done. For instance, a system for free legal aid needs to be developed. In order to contribute to this goal, we support the independent NGO Refugee Rights Turkey (formerly known as Helsinki Citizens Assembly). Currently we are closely cooperating with Refugee Rights Turkey in two projects. The first project is financed by the EU. In this project the Dutch Council for Refugees facilitates three workshops in association with ECRE. These workshops focus on Dutch and European Asylum Procedures, Reception and Integration. See here the report 'Reception conditions in Turkey' (pdf).
In our second project we support Turkish BAR organisations for migration lawyers and NGOs by sharing knowledge and experience with them on asylum law and by providing advice about mutual coordination. The American US Department of State largely finances this project.
Picture: two colleagues of the Dutch Council for Refugees who performed a training in Istanbul.
Watch our video below in which Oktay Durukan - general director of Refugee Rights Turkey - speaks about the cooperation with the Dutch Council for Refugees.
A rising number of refugees travels from conflict areas in the Middle East and East Africa through the Balkans to Western Europe. Therefore it is important for people to be able to apply for asylum in Balkan countries and to receive a fair and dignified treatment of their claim. That way people will not be forced to travel onwards to find safety. Montenegro, a candidate member state of the EU is currently aligning its asylum system with the EU asylum laws and policies. This is part of the preparations to access the EU.
We cooperate with the Montenegrin NGO 'Centre for Democracy and Human Rights' (CEDEM), in a project to enhance the protection of refugees in Montenegro. The project aims to strengthen the Montenegrin asylum system and to align it with international and EU standards. In this project the Dutch Council for Refugees provides trainings for the partner organisation and for other Montenegrin refugee organisations and the Montenegrin government. These trainings focus on providing legal aid for refugees. In addition, a Montenegrin delegation visited the Netherlands to see how the Dutch asylum systems works in practice.
The project with CEDEM is financed by the Matra fund of the Dutch Embassy in Serbia, its duration is one year.
Many refugees from conflict areas in other parts of the world travel through Balkan countries to Western Europe. Currently more and more people apply for asylum in Balkan countries. Because Bosnia and Herzegovina is a candidate member state of the EU, its asylum system will increasingly be aligned with the EU asylum system.
We cooperate with the Centre for International Legal Cooperation (CILC) and two Dutch governmental institutions: the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA). Moreover, we work with local Bosnian NGOs, like Vasa Prava. We aim to increase the capacity of both governmental and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In addition, in this project we aim to strengthen mutual cooperation. The IND and the COA train the Bosnian government, while the Dutch Council for Refugees trains NGOs to prepare and coach asylum seekers for their asylum and integration procedures. Together we aim to strengthen the entire Bosnian immigration process .
The project is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its duration is two years.
After a number of wars, many refugees and displaced people – people who have become refugees within their own country – live in Serbia. Many refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia choose a route through South-eastern Europe or the Balkans. A growing number of Syrian refugees crosses the borders of Serbia. However, instead of travelling onwards, an increasing number of people now apply for asylum in Balkan countries. Because Serbia is a candidate member state of the EU, its asylum system will increasingly be aligned with the EU asylum system.
We cooperate with our Serbian partner NGO, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, in order to strengthen the Serbian asylum system. The Dutch Council for Refugees provides trainings in the field of legal aid for refugees and integration. A study visit to the Netherlands will also be part of the project.
The project is financed by the Matra fund of the Dutch Embassy in Serbia and has a duration of one year.
In Kenya many refugees live in huge refugee camps. These camps are located in remote and poor areas and the refugees depend largely on the assistance of international aid organisations. The Dutch Council for Refugees cooperates with two Kenyan NGOs in the refugee camp of Kakuma, near the Sudanese border. These organisations offer refugees legal, social and material aid.
Many refugees in Kenya also live illegally in Nairobi as 'urban refugees'. Together with local refugee organisations, we aim to protect them against all negative consequences of illegality.
Watch a video on the work of our Kenyan partner organisation in the Kakuma refugee camp below.