Additional measures in response to larger number of expected asylum applications

The number of applications for asylum is on the rise across Europe. The Netherlands now expects to receive 48,200 applications this year, 6,700 more than the forecast issued 6 months ago. Most of these applications involve reunification of family members who are arriving now that COVID-19-related travel restrictions have been lifted. If policy remains unchanged, the number of applications will increase to 50,650 in 2023. The projected influx in subsequent years has been set at 41,000, although the margin of uncertainty is greater.

This was the conclusion of the long-range production forecast (Meerjaren Productie Prognose) conducted semi-annually by the Ministry of Justice and Security and relevant organisations within the asylum chain, which Minister for Migration Eric van der Burg submitted to the House today. 

Eric van der Burg, Minister for Migration:

‘Most of the population growth in our country is the result of people moving here for work or for love. At the same time, many people are also fleeing to the Netherlands to escape war and violence. Such refugees arrive not only from Ukraine, but from other countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen as well. This new, higher forecast stems from the larger unrest in the world. What is worrying is that this will exacerbate existing problems in the asylum chain. Our current course will not lead us to success. Now is the time to act in order to regain control of the situation. With this letter, I am taking the initial steps to ensure this happens. We must make complex choices as well – and we have already exhausted the obvious options. I intend to open a dialogue with all involved parties for the purpose of making those choices, no matter how difficult it may be at times.’

The Netherlands has a high acceptance rate compared to other EU countries. For first-time asylum seekers, the acceptance rate here is 85%. The number of approved applications increased from 3,170 in 2018 to 11,750 in 2022 because fewer unfounded requests were submitted. There is also a greater number of extremely well-founded applications coming in from Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. The Minister plans to open an investigation into the underlying causes even though the percentage has also been higher in past years, such as in 2015-2016.

Immigration and Naturalisation Service: train additional staff and make processes smarter

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) expects to process some 28,000 applications this year. The projected higher intake will increase the volume of pending cases from 20,400 cases at the start of 2022 to 47,800 cases by the end of 2023. The IND also intends to invest in the recruitment and training of additional staff in the coming years. This is in recognition of the rapid growth of the organisation, which added 400 FTEs in 2022. The IND plans to investigate the reasons for the increased complexity of applications as well. As an organisation, it is continuously striving for improvement and exploring more intelligent ways to design its processes.

COA is working toward a sufficient number reception places. Measures are needed to facilitate movement in, through and out of reception

Based on the forecasts, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) has taken a decision with regard to the capacity at reception locations. The COA is requesting space for 61,200 people by 1 January 2023. Assuming all targets for housing asylum permit holders are met, reception places for some 55,000 people will be needed. If the policy remains unchanged, a total of 75,500 reception places will be needed as of 1 January 2024. In response to these high forecasts, the Minister of Migration is exploring which additional measures are needed to facilitate movement in, through and out of reception facilities in order to decrease the pressure on those locations.

Agreements for extending the use of the emergency reception spaces have already been made with the security regions. Rather than on 1 January 2023, the gradual closure of these facilities will now in principle conclude on 1 April (and no later than 1 July). The Dutch government is also working on legislation that will ensure a sufficient number of reception locations, distributed across the Netherlands.

On average, 100 to 150 unaccompanied minor aliens (UACs) apply for asylum each week. Initially, 5,510 UACs were projected to arrive this year. The current number is 12% higher: 6,180. The Minister for Migration is looking into the reasons for this. The reception facilities for unaccompanied minors are already overcrowded. This is cause for concern in light of the support this vulnerable group requires. Together with Nidos, COA intends to arrange an extra 5,000 places – both at asylum seekers’ centres and via youth care and social networks – between now and 1 January 2024, in order to reduce pressure on the Ter Apel facility.

The Minister is instituting a temporary measure that will allow UACs to transfer to regular reception facilities, when appropriate, three months in advance of their 18th birthday. While he would prefer to avoid this measure, it is necessary in order to move closer to the occupancy target of 55 UACs in Ter Apel. Unfortunately, the previous appeal to municipalities failed to yield sufficient places.

The judicial system will also receive support in the coming years to facilitate the timely processing of all cases and appeals. In addition, despite the tight housing market, every effort is being made to help asylum permit holders move out of reception facilities. This constitutes yet another task being assigned to the municipalities. We will also maintain our permanent commitment to ensuring rejected applicants return to their countries of origin.