More liberties for detained foreign nationals

Detained foreign nationals will be given more liberties during their detention than they are given now. For instance, they will be able to move around freely and with minimum supervision within the institution from eight o'clock in the morning to ten o'clock in the evening, they will be entitled to at least forty hours of daytime activities per week and they will be allowed to make calls with their mobile telephone (no camera function and internet). Attention will also be paid to vulnerable groups that are in need of extra care, for example. Families with children will, in principle, not be detained, unless they have evaded supervision before.

This is stated in the proposal for the new Return and Aliens Detention Act [Wet terugkeer en vreemdelingenbewaring] which was published on-line today by State Secretary Teeven (Security and Justice) for the purpose of an internet consultation. Interested parties may respond to the proposal until 21 February 2014 via the website www.internetconsultatie.nl/vreemdelingenbewaring.

The state secretary wants to provide more customised services. There will be two different main regimes within aliens detention: the residence regime and the management regime. The basic principle here is that foreign nationals will – after an intake interview – be placed in the residence regime. In this regime, foreign nationals may largely decide for themselves how to plan their time and spend the day. Between ten o'clock in the evening and eight o'clock in the morning, the foreign nationals must stay in their accommodation with the door locked. For the rest of the day, they can move around freely and with minimum supervision from one room or activity to another. The aliens detention will focus on working towards one's return. In addition, the foreign nationals will be offered more return activities, such as courses, in order to help them with their return.

Only foreign nationals who are unable to cope with the freedom offered by the residence regime will be placed in the management regime. This also applies to foreign nationals who, due to their behaviour or management problems, disrupt the order and safety within the residence regime too much. Foreign nationals who are placed in this regime will have more supervision and fewer internal liberties. For instance, they will be entitled to at least eighteen hours of daytime activities per week and they will have fewer visiting hours. It is expected that this will apply to approximately five to no more than ten percent of detained foreign nationals.

The purpose of detention is to have foreign nationals who are not allowed to stay in the Netherlands return. In the new legislative proposal, too, aliens detention will always be a last means to be used with due care. This means that a foreign national failed to meet his obligation to leave the country and did not make use of any less radical measures for his return (such as the duty to report, a security deposit or stay at a centre with restricted movement, all with intensive return counselling offered by the Repatriation and Departure Service).

The past few years have seen the number of persons in aliens detention decrease steadily. In 2007, the number was 8487; in 2012, the number was 5012. In that year, 59 percent of detained foreign nationals were forced to leave the Netherlands. Seventy-four percent of this group was deported from the Netherlands within three months.

A foreign national may only be detained if he fails to actively work on his return, if there is a real risk of him evading supervision and if there are prospects of a return within the foreseeable future. The court will check the lawfulness of the aliens detention, and will do so again after six months or when requested by the foreign national. Proper legal protection is also provided for in aliens detention, for example if a foreign national has any complaints about the facilities.