Cabinet faces criticism from all sides at asylum debate

Out there alone? Eric van der Burg Photo: Rijksoverheid

Proposed plans by junior justice minister Eric van der Burg to limit family reunification to reduce asylum seeker numbers came under attack from all sides during a parliamentary debate on Thursday.

Currently, relatives of asylum seekers are allowed to enter the Netherlands if the asylum seeker has been granted residence status, which could take longer than a year.

But under the new proposals, asylum seekers – even those with a residence permit – must have a home first. If a refugee still doesn’t have a home 15 months after submitting an application for family reunification, the family may then come over. But that could mean a wait of up to two and a half years, MPs said.


Left-wing parties called the cabinet’s plans ‘inhumane.Denk leader Farid Azarkan called them a ‘dirty compromise’ that breaks international law. Sylvana Simons (BIJ1) accused the cabinet of ‘cold-blooded political unwillingness and a total lack of humanity.’ GroenLinks MP Suzanne Kröger spoke of disgrace for the Netherlands.

SP, PvdA and PvdD also opposed the plans, with GroenLinks and PvdA appealing to the advisory Council of State for urgent legal advice.

On the right, meanwhile, parliament members accused the government of encouraging more asylum seekers to seek refuge in the Netherlands. While Van der Burg said his plan would hold up in court, coalition parties D66 and the ChristenUnie expressed doubts.

The European Directive for family reunification says having a home cannot be a condition for family reunification, but the government wants that condition to be temporarily suspended due to the current Dutch housing crisis.


Figures obtained by Nieuwsuur from the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) show if the cabinet’s plans to limit family reunification are enacted, an estimated 5,800 fewer people will come to the Netherlands over the next year.

If the plans go through, 5,900 family members are still expected to arrive in the Netherlands in the short term. For each two refugees accepted, the figures show, an average of three family members follow.

Asylum centres in the Netherlands are full, with hundreds of refugees sleeping outside Ter Apel on Thursday night in a repeat of scenes from two weeks ago.

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