Aliens detention

Prior to expulsion or deportation, a foreign citizen who is staying in the Netherlands unlawfully and does not leave voluntarily may be held in vreemdelingenbewaring (aliens detention) if there is a risk of the individual evading supervision. This measure is only allowed if the person can actually be expelled.

Aliens detention is not intended as punishment

Aliens detention is a way to ensure a foreign citizen remains available for departure to their country of origin. It is not intended as a punishment. 

Conditions governing aliens detention

There are several conditions for aliens detention.

  • Detention may be ordered only by the hulpofficier van justitie (assistant public prosecutor) or a designated Dienst Terugkeer en Vertrek – DT&V (Repatriation and Departure Service) officer. The foreign citizen can always challenge their detention in court. If they do not, the authorities in the Netheralands will automatically report the detention to the court within 4 weeks. The court can then assess the lawfulness of the detention order.
  • Aliens detention is only permitted if there are no other options which are less drastic and have the same effect.
  • Foreign citizens may be detained for up to 6 months. The period of detention may be extended to a maximum of 18 months if the person refuses to cooperate or if the necessary travel documents have not yet been received. Extensions are reviewed by the court.

Foreign citizens can be held at one of 3 specialised detention centres in Zeist, Rotterdam and Schiphol (Dutch).

Improving conditions of aliens detention

The Government is taking steps to bring conditions in detention centres in line with the personal situation of the people staying there. Detention of foreign citizens pending their departure is, after all, not a punishment.

Under the law: Wet terugkeer en vreemdelingenbewaring, foreign citizens will have more freedom during their stay in a detention centre than they do now. For instance, they will:

  • be able to move about freely within the detention centre between 8:00 and 22:00 with minimal supervision;
  • be entitled to at least 40 hours of daytime activity each week;
  • be allowed to make phone calls on their mobile phone (no camera function or internet access).

The law is currently under consideration in parliament. The Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives) has approved the bill. It is currently awaiting approval by the Eerste Kamer (Senate)

Vulnerable groups

When the authorities in the Netherlands impose supervision measures on foreign citizens, special attention is always paid to the situation of vulnerable people. Detention is only ever used as a last resort. Families with children may be placed in detention only if they are able to leave the country within 2 weeks. Unaccompanied minors are held in detention only if absolutely necessary and for the shortest time possible.

While they are in detention, vulnerable people are given special attention, focusing on their specific situation. For instance, they have access to an extra care department and there is a facility for children and their parents.

Secure family facility

A secure, child-friendly family facility, the Gesloten Gezins Voorziening – GGV (secure family facility) is available at the detention centre in Zeist. This facility is for families with minor children in border detention or aliens detention and for unaccompanied minors in aliens detention (unaccompanied minors are never placed in border detention). This facility was designed with sensitivity to children’s needs and to protect them.

An important feature of the GGV is that children and their parents have the freedom to move around within the grounds of the closed facility. They also have their own living space so that they can live as normal a family life as possible. The secure family facility is used only as a last resort and under strict conditions.