Estimates of numbers of illegal immigrants show downwards trend

According to a new estimate of numbers of illegal immigrants, conducted by Utrecht University at the behest of the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC: Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum), the number of aliens residing illegally in the Netherlands in the period 2017-2018 was approximately somewhere between 23,000 and 58,000. Minister for Migration Ankie Broekers-Knol informed the House of Representatives of this in writing on Wednesday.

The Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) emphasises that these numbers are in no way precise, but are estimates. Since the same method has been used for the past 20 years, the researchers were able to conduct a trend analysis. This led them to the conclusion that the number of aliens residing in the Netherlands without the right of residence has fallen substantially in recent years. While their number was estimated at over 194,000 in 1987, current estimates using the same method yield a figure of approximately 23,000.

New estimate

This time, the WODC also used a second method to make an estimation, which shed light on a part of the illegal population that previously went somewhat unnoticed. Based on these two estimates, the researchers conclude the actual number of illegal migrants residing in the Netherlands to be somewhere between 23,000 and 58,000.

No support

The researchers explain the downwards trend by the requirement to carry identification documents introduced in 1994, among other things, as well as the fact that, since 1998, adult aliens without a right of residence no longer have access to public services, such as banks, rented accommodation or educational programmes. There are also indications that the reorganisation of the Aliens Police in 2000 has made residing illegally in the Netherlands less appealing. The expansion of the European Union in 2004 and 2007 also had an effect, since many people from the countries involved have had the legal right to reside in the Netherlands since then.

Promoting leaving

Current aliens policy is based on the premise that anyone not allowed to reside here will leave. Initially, the focus is on voluntary departure. If this does not occur, forced departure becomes an option. Criminal aliens and those causing trouble are the first to be targeted for forced departure. As soon as someone without a right of residence becomes involved with the police, for instance, the immediate procedure is to attempt to deport them.

Improved working method for declaring someone undesirable

Although Broekers-Knol is happy with the downwards trend, reflecting the fact that the aliens policy is proving effective, she is not entirely satisfied. She would like for it to be made easier to issue a declaration of undesirability for someone residing in the Netherlands who is not entitled to do so. This would mean that anyone who frequently shoplifts or causes nuisance could, for example, be given a six-month penal sentence if they refuse to leave the country of their own volition. Although this is already possible in principle, it has become unnecessarily complicated due to a change in legislation in 2011. Broekers-Knol is currently having people look into how this could be adapted.