Reforms and repeated Internment
The willigness to accomodate refugees in the Netherlands is limited. But there are efforts to improve the situation of displaced people staying in the country.
About a quarter of the people who submitted asylum application in the Netherlands in the first months of 2016 reportedly were refused a residency permit and were sent back to their home countries, because they came from countries that are considered „safe.“ The most common “safe“ countries included Albania, Serbia and Kosovo. Nine hundred people from these three countries applied for asylum in the first nine weeks of 2016. According to official statistics, in 2015 10,240, were returned, of whom 1,850 were deported; in 2014 out of the total 9,800 persons returned, 2,100 were deported.
As of November 2016, the Netherlands operated three dedicated immigration detention centres, located in Zeist, Rotterdam, and at the Schiphol International Airport (Justitieel Complex Schiphol). The Custodial Institutions Agency manages these facilities. In 2013 the UN Committee against Torture found that the legal regime in immigration detention centres resembled the legal regime in penal institutions.
Dutch authorities have been criticized for the practice of re-detention, detaining a non-citizen after his or her release. Reportedly, almost 30 percent of immigration detainees in 2010 had previously been detained. The country has also faced criticism for its detention of children and families. This spurred the opening in October 2014 of a Closed Family Facility, which reportedly offers improved conditions.
The number of immigration detainees in the Netherlands has dropped significantly in recent years, from 6,104 in 2011 to 2,176 in 2015. According to some accounts this is due in part to the fact that the government “takes the obligation to consider alternatives more seriously than it did before“ the EU Return Directive was adopted. Another reason is a Council of State ruling prohibiting mobile surveillance teams of the Royal Military Constabulary to arrest irregular migrants at the border with other EU countries. Fewer detainees have in turn spurred a reduction in the capacity of the Dutch immigration detention estate, from 1,950 in 2011 to 933 in 2016.
Other reform efforts have included proposed new rules on the conditions of detention. After the suicide of an asylum seeker in early 2013 in the Rotterdam Detention Centre, the Security and Justice Inspectorate conducted an investigation and found that the government acted negligently in terms of medical and legal assistance. This led to the drafting of the Return and Detention Act. The Act, which was still in Parliamentary debate as of late 2016, would regulate conditions and regime of detention, which are currently governed by rules applicable to penitentiaries.
Also important to note, two overseas territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Aruba and Curaçao, operate immigration detention centres. A report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture in 2015 provided details about operations at these immigration facilities, which the CPT found during its 2014 visit to have “adequate“ material conditions despite shortcomings related to staffing, operations, and procedural standards. The plight of detainees on these islands made headlines in late 2016 as officials there ramped up efforts to interdict the thousands of Venezuelans fleeing their country in the wake of its economic collapse. Referring to growing consternation in the Netherlands over the situation and the effort to stop the flow, a Coast Guard officer in Curacao told the New York Times, “They want to prevent a situation like Libya.“
Authors: Global Detention Project