Proposals to process all asylum applications through accelerated procedures led to fears that well-founded claims for protection would be rejected. Asylum-seekers were detained for excessive periods, in inappropriate conditions.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In June the government announced plans to reform asylum-determination procedures. The accelerated procedure would be reformed so that applications would be determined within eight days, rather than five. The reformed accelerated process would then become the standard procedure for all asylum applications, including complex cases. There were concerns that this would lead to inadequate scrutiny of asylum applications and the rejection of well-founded claims for protection.
"At least five people were forcibly returned to northern Iraq..."
The State Secretary of Justice announced in September that asylum-seekers from central and southern Iraq would no longer be automatically entitled to protection in the Netherlands. Residence permits previously issued to Iraqis from central and southern Iraq would be withdrawn and each case would be made subject to individual review, to determine whether the individual was a refugee or otherwise in need of international protection.
At least five people were forcibly returned to northern Iraq, at least five to central Iraq and at least one to southern Iraq. Rejected asylum-seekers from Iraq were told that they were expected to return to Iraq, that they had no right to remain in the Netherlands and that they were not entitled to any support from the state, beyond the most basic emergency health care. Many, therefore, were faced with a choice between returning “voluntarily” to Iraq, despite real risks of human rights violations there, or being made forcibly destitute in the Netherlands.
Detention of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers
According to government figures, around 4,500 irregular migrants and asylum-seekers were subject to administrative detention in the first half of 2008. They were held in detention centres under a regime designed for remand prisoners. Some were detained for excessive periods, in some cases more than a year. Alternatives to detention were used infrequently, even for people belonging to vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied minors and victims of trafficking or torture.
Not all allegations of ill-treatment in immigration detention were followed by prompt, impartial and thorough investigations.
Although the regimes for immigration detention were under review, few concrete proposals for improvement were made. The supervision and complaints mechanisms were under review, but few measures for improvement were announced, apart from the creation of a mechanism to investigate complaints of ill-treatment by officers of the Transport and Support Service, which is responsible for the transport of detained individuals.
In January the government announced reforms to the policy governing the detention of asylum-seeking families with children, including the introduction of a maximum detention period for families of two weeks prior to expulsion, and the improvement of detention conditions. However, the government indicated it would continue to detain unaccompanied minors in juvenile justice institutions.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
In July the government committed itself to establishing a national human rights institution for the Netherlands.