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Gesthuizen: refugee policy must change

October 24th, 2012 • Since a number of weeks ago asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected have been camping out in tents in Amsterdam and The Hague. On Tuesday, SP Member of Parliament Sharon Gesthuizen joined MPs from a number of other parties in a meeting with a number of those involved and several experts on related issues. Amongst those present alongside people living in the camps were Amsterdam’s Labour mayor Eberhard van der Laan, Professor Thomas Spijkerboer, a specialist in migration law, and John van Tilborg from the Nationwide Consultation of Municipalities on Reception and Return Policy (known by its Dutch acronym, LOGO).

During the round table discussion it became clear that there is a great deal of criticism of the Netherlands’ refugee policy. Refugees told the meeting that they could not return to their homelands and wanted to stay in the Netherlands.

'This presents political decision-makers with a stark dilemma over the next few months,” said Sharon Gesthuizen. ‘Not every refused asylum seeker will be able to stay. For a number of them, such as Somalis and Iraqis, it is indeed true that return is not really an option, but for all of those who must return we need to find a solution.’

Jan Braat, the official in charge of Refugees’ Affairs in Utrecht, pointed to the need to go back to the old system of “social reception”, a standpoint of which the SP has long been a supporter.

'There is a great deal wrong with the Netherlands’ reception and return policy,’ says Gesthuizen. ‘Everyone who can’t actually be deported ends up on the street and this is creating more difficulties in various towns. If we provide reception and along with that a calm environment, medical care and effective support, this would lead to more returns and less illegality on the street.’

Policy regarding asylum seekers will shortly be the subject of a debate in Parliament, and Gesthuizen’s hope is that this will lead to a structural solution to the problem.

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