Even greater focus on the safety of aliens

Fred Teeven, Minister for Immigration, has taken measures to place an even greater focus on the safety of aliens. The cabinet has agreed to submit a letter on this matter to the House of Representatives, looking at the report produced by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) on the safety of aliens in response to the death of Alexander Dolmatov, as well as the Security and Justice Inspectorate's immigration system monitor.

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and the Repatriation and Departure Service (DT&V) have recently taken a number of initiatives, including setting up a multidisciplinary team. As a result, reflecting on partners' activities has increasingly become an integral part of the daily tasks of people working in the immigration system. From summer 2014 the system will be digitised, eradicating a significant proportion of the problems relating to information exchange. This will make it possible to accumulate information and ensure that old information is not lost. Information will also be available online to immigration system partners.

Mr Teeven is pleased with the OVV's observation 'that there are no indications that asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers in reception centres and detention centres are routinely unsafe.' However, the report notes that there is room for improvement. The minister warns that, while it is important to recognise and manage risks, not all of the risks mentioned by the OVV can be eliminated completely. The attitude of individual aliens and the choices they make play a role too. Mr Teeven also points out that the OVV does not claim that all the risks they identified will actually arise in practice.

Mr Teeven and his colleague Edith Schippers, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, are working with the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) to investigate how important medical information can be made available to the next medical care provider as soon as an alien is transferred within the immigration system. He will report the findings to the House of Representatives later in the year.

The medical confidentiality requirement - which is in the alien's interest, from the perspective of privacy - is also a hindrance. A medical professional may not share information about an alien with a third party, even though it may be important that he do so. Sharing medical information with non-medical professionals within the immigration system may also be beneficial. Mr Teeven is currently examining the possibilities.

Although the minister is confident that the processes for admitting and repatriating aliens with medical issues are organised as carefully as possible, he will carry out an international comparative study this year. The study will look at how other countries' policies take the economic, geographical and political dimension of the accessibility of medical care into account. The focus will be on aliens with medical complaints who are not eligible for a residence permit on medical grounds and must return to their country of origin.

In response to the OVV's recommendation that the safety of aliens at all points in the system be put under external supervision, the Security and Justice Inspectorate will be made responsible for monitoring the entire immigration system. The Inspectorate has been independently supervising the return process since 1 January 2014.

Mr Teeven concurs with the Security and Justice Inspectorate's warning that achieving results in the short term comes at a cost to the implementation of more fundamental changes. 'The changes we have already made are not the end of the line; there is more work to be done.'