Task force extends work to deal with backlog in asylum applications
The special task force created to deal with a backlog of 15,350 asylum applications to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) will continue its work after the end of this year. More time is needed following several setbacks, including the anti-corona measures, start-up problems and the fact that this work could not be further accelerated for reasons of due diligence, among other things. So says a letter sent by State Secretary Broekers-Knol to the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Despite the aforementioned setbacks, some 6,500 cases included in the backlog have now been processed. It is expected that roughly another 1,500 cases will be dealt with before the new year, meaning that around 8,000 cases will have been completed by the end of this year. This also means that a corresponding number of asylum seekers, who have often had to wait a long period, have now received clarity regarding their application. They can now focus on either integration or returning to their country of origin.
Continuation in 2021
The other cases need to be processed in the coming year. Some of these (around 2,500) are so complex that they require the expertise of highly experienced IND staff. These involve issues such as religious converts or LHBTI applications. Currently the task force estimates that it will be finished in mid-2021, assuming the coronavirus does not further affect the process.
According to Broekers-Knol this situation is especially hard for the group of asylum seekers who are still waiting for a decision. Hence the undiminished efforts of the task force remain focussed on giving those long-term asylum seekers clarity about their application as soon as possible. This group of waiting applicants is being informed by letter about the state of affairs regarding the task force and the processing of their application.
Even though the task force has not yet been able to process all the cases, the State Secretary recognises the added value of this approach. Without deployment of the task force the IND would have been faced with large backlogs for an indefinite period. This would also have led to new cases not being decided on schedule. Moreover, the work processes have been improved, meaning that planning can now be done centrally, written hearings are possible and elements of the work can be contracted out. Broekers-Knol is having the approach evaluated, enabling the IND to improve the work processes in structural terms over time.
In some of the cases, situations have been prevented in which an asylum seeker might have received a penalty from the court. So far this year the IND has paid out 11.5 million euros and it is expected that a further 32 million euros will be paid out in 2020 and 2021. The final total of this cost item is not yet known (penalties are only paid out after an application has been processed), but this total has been previously estimated at around 70 million euros. The State Secretary has now also made a temporary amendment to the law, meaning that no penalties may be imposed in new cases. A permanent law will be introduced as soon as possible