The Netherlands grants asylum to people who would be in danger if they were to return to their own country. First, however, special procedures are followed to determine whether an asylum seeker genuinely needs protection.
International treaties on protection of refugees
The Netherlands admits people who would be in danger if they were to return to their own country. The obligation to do so is laid down in various international treaties, in particular:
- the Geneva Convention on Refugees, which states that every refugee has a right to protection;
- the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that no one may be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Applying for asylum at an application centre
Foreign nationals seeking asylum must report to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) at ter Apel. After identification and registration, asylum seekers are transferred to a reception centre, which is usually near the application centre that will process the asylum application.
Asylum seekers entering the Netherlands by plane can report to the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee at Schiphol Airport. As a rule, they are denied admission to the Netherlands. A border procedure is started to deal with their application for asylum. The asylum seeker remains in the application centre at Schiphol Airport for the duration of this procedure.
If the individual is from one of the countries on the list of safe countries of origin, or if there are indications that they already enjoy protection in another EU member state, a special accelerated asylum procedure applies.
Time for rest and preparation
Asylum seekers are given at least 6 days to recover from their journey. The asylum procedure does not begin until after this period. During the rest and preparation period they are given:
- information about the asylum procedure;
- help from a lawyer;
- a medical declaration for use during their asylum procedure.
For more information about this period see the factsheet Before your asylum procedure begins (pdf, 265 kb). The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) is responsible for the reception, supervision and departure (from the reception centre) of asylum seekers.
At a special interview the asylum seeker can explain what they experienced in their country of origin and why they had to leave. The IND will arrange an interpreter for this interview. The asylum seeker can call on the assistance of a lawyer or a representative of the Dutch Refugee Council. The interview is designed in a way that allows the asylum seeker to speak freely, but also lets the IND ask critical questions if necessary.
Afterwards, the asylum seeker is sent a report of the interview. Together with their lawyer, they may send the IND corrections or additions.
IND assesses asylum applications
IND assesses asylum applications on the basis of:
- the asylum seeker’s account (facts and credibility)
- the security situation in the asylum seeker’s country of origin.
You can find more information on eligibility for asylum on the IND website.
Asylum residence permit or return
If the IND establishes that an asylum seeker needs protection, they will be given an asylum residence permit. Asylum seekers who do not require protection must return to their country of origin.
Asylum seekers whose application is denied may apply to the district court for review of the IND's decision. They are often allowed to remain in the Netherlands while their case is being considered.
Asylum seekers who come from a safe country of origin or enjoy protection in another EU member state
If an asylum seeker comes from a country on the list of safe countries of origin, or already enjoys protection in another EU member state, their application can be declared manifestly unfounded in an accelerated asylum procedure.
In such cases the asylum seeker is not given time for rest and preparation and is interviewed immediately. At this interview the asylum seeker can explain why they would not be safe in their country of origin. But their arguments must be more convincing than for asylum seekers from countries that are not on the list. The interview usually takes place without a lawyer present. After the interview the asylum seeker is allowed to consult a lawyer and send the IND additions or corrections to the report.
If the application is declared manifestly unfounded or inadmissable the asylum seeker must leave the Netherlands immediately.
Scheme for long-stay asylum seekers under the age of 18
Some asylum seekers under the age of 18 have been living in the Netherlands for several years with no prospect of receiving a residence permit. Possible reasons for this lengthy stay include:
- the duration of procedures (which in the past sometimes took a long time)
- refusal to cooperate with return
- repeated initiation of new procedures by their parents.
Or a combination of these factors.
The government does not want these young people to be disadvantaged by this situation. That is why the Rutte-Asscher government has introduced a transitional scheme and a permanent scheme. This will, under certain circumstances, make young people eligible for a residence permit after all.
The transitional scheme gives clarity to children with an asylum background who have already been living in the Netherlands for a long time.
The permanent scheme is designed to prevent fresh debates arising in the future about children who have lived in the Netherlands for a long time and about the government’s role and responsibility in relation to these children, many of whom are failed asylum seekers. The introduction of the permanent scheme creates a policy against which the responsibility of both the government and parents can be objectively assessed.
Government plan to provide more staff and resources for immigration and asylum
The government wants more reception centres for asylum seekers, and extra staff at the Aliens Police, Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers and the IND. This is to ensure that the Netherlands can continue to provide proper reception facilities and handle applications swiftly and with due care, even when the influx of refugees is large.
This plan is included in the 2016 budget of the Ministry of Security and Justice.