Prior to expulsion, a foreign national may be held in detention if there is a risk of the individual evading supervision. This measure is only allowed if the person can actually be expelled and their expulsion is imminent.
Aliens detention is a way to ensure a foreign national 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 assistant public prosecutor or a designated DT&V officer. The foreign national can always challenge their detention in court. If they do not, the authorities will automatically report the detention to the court within four 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 nationals may be detained for up to six 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 nationals can be held at one of three specialised detention centres in Zeist, Rotterdam and Schiphol.
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 nationals pending their departure is, after all, not a punishment.
More freedom for foreign nationals in detention
The Ministry of Security and Justice has drafted a new Return and Detention Bill. Under the new law, foreign nationals will have more freedoms while being held in detention than they do now. For instance, they will:
- be able to move 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 new act is expected to enter into force in 2016.
When the authorities impose supervision measures on foreign nationals, special attention is always paid to the situation of vulnerable people. Detention is only ever used as a last resort. Families with children may only be placed in detention if they are able to leave the country within two weeks. Unaccompanied minors are only held in detention if absolutely necessary and for the shortest time possible.
While they are held 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 is available at the detention centre in Zeist. This facility is for families with children in border detention or aliens detention and for unaccompanied minors in aliens detention. The new facility was designed with sensitivity to children’s perceptions and to protect them.
An important feature is that children and their parents have the freedom to move around within the facility. They also have their own quarters 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.