Higher levels of theft and non-compliance with house rules among asylum seekers last year

2019 saw a 30% rise in the number of incidents in asylum seeker centres reported by the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and a 27% rise in the number of offences among asylum seekers as recorded by the police. The biggest increase in the number of recorded incidents at asylum seeker centres relates to breaches of the house rules (39%), followed by verbal aggression and violence (32%). For incidents involving a crime, the biggest rise is in the category of non-violent theft. This data has been published as part of the overview of incidents submitted to the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday by Ankie Broekers-Knol, Minister for Migration.

"The statistics paint a realistic picture of what we are observing in practice. Last year, many municipalities and provinces were highlighting problems that they were witnessing among a relatively small proportion of asylum seekers. We have taken strict measures to combat these developments and we hope they will be reflected in next year's figures."

 said the Minister. According to her, all forms of anti-social conduct are unacceptable, not only because of the disruption caused to society but also because such conduct damages public support for the accommodation of vulnerable people who need our protection. 

Series of measures

A series of measures has been introduced in order to solve these problems. For example, three chain marines have been appointed, a top-X list has been formulated to enable targeted action against the most persistent troublemakers and an Enforcement and Supervision Location has been set up for the worst offenders. "These measures have already borne fruit in a number of municipalities, although we still have plenty of work to do", explains Broekers-Knol. For this reason, she will be appointing a fourth chain marine, an extra million euros will be made available for local initiatives and an additional tool kit of measures is currently in development, which will be available for municipalities to use as of this summer.


As the overview of incidents does not give any insight into the causes of the figures, the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) has been asked to investigate the rise in incidents. It could be partly due to the police using a different method of recording incidents (the 27% factor drops to 22% when correcting for this factor), a higher number of foreign nationals being simultaneously accommodated in the COA institutions (average occupancy has risen by 17%) or the continual efforts by the chain marines to encourage as many affected parties as possible to register their complaint and press charges. The Minister has also asked the WODC to compile the overview of incidents as of next year to ensure it is scientifically validated.

Facts and figures

In 2019, over 3,500 incidences of property crime were committed, as were around 550 cases of vandalism. The police also recorded 665 violent crimes, of which 83 were sexual offences and 32 were attempted homicides, two of which resulted in the death of the victim. Both of these cases will be presented in court at a later date. In 59% of all cases, the suspect is a foreign national from a safe country; this figure is similar to the 2018 percentage (56%).

The number of breaches of house rules in asylum seeker centres rose to over 10,000 (approx. 7,500 in 2018) and incidents of aggression and violence also increased to over 5,300. 28% of the perpetrators of incidents at asylum seeker centres originated from safe countries. The COA operates an eye-for-an-eye policy: in 2019, 6,880 incidents resulted in measures being taken, a rise of 29% compared to the previous year. Such measures can include the withholding of living allowance, transfer of asylum seekers to other locations or imposition of a notification obligation.