“At last, a general amnesty”

26 May 2007

“At last, a general amnesty”

The SP's parliamentary group has expressed delight at the news that, for a large number of people awaiting asylum, an end at last appears to be coming to a long period of uncertainty. Thousands of people who before 1st April 2001 entered a plea to be granted asylum now know for sure that they can begin to rebuild their lives in the Netherlands. “A number of rather tricky points remain to be cleared up, but the main feeling at the moment is one of relief," commented SP Member of Parliament Jan de Wit.

Jan de WitThe SP first demanded a general amnesty in the run up to the parliamentary elections of 2002. The problem of the enormous uncertainty under which people have to live who entered the country under the by then superseded refugee law remains, however, unsolved. Only after the parliamentary elections of 2005, in which the SP's own representation increased overnight from 9 to 25 seats, did a majority of Members of Parliament favour a general amnesty. Once the measure had been included in the coalition agreement under which the new government of Christian Democrats (CDA), Social Democrats (PvdA-Labour Party) and the Christian Union had taken office, SP asylum spokesman Jan de Wit maintained constant pressure for the speedy introduction of legislation putting it into effect. The government nevertheless took its time. As De Wit put it, "A lot of people have had to live with uncertainty for far too long.”

In the meantime an agreement was reached with the association of local authorities, though this remains to be finalised and could yet throw a spanner in the works. The local authorities are, for example, concerned that they should not have to offer emergency accommodation to people who do not come under the amnesty, a condition to which the government appears ready, however, to agree, arguing that as people not benefiting from the amnesty will be deported, clearly they will not have to be housed. Jan de Wit is unconvinced: “It's not immediately obvious in every case whether the person in question comes under the amnesty or not," he pointed out.

Grounds for deportation will play a role in the debate which remains to be held over the amnesty and the overall question of asylum. The government has stated that anyone 'posing a danger to public order' or 'a danger to national security' will be excluded. This leaves many questions unanswered: what about people appealing against convictions, or those accused of war crimes who have not yet been proved guilty? And what will happen to the children of such people, children who may have been born and grown up here? “There are a lot of issues left to be sorted out in parliament's debate with the Secretary of State for asylum policy, Nebahat Albayrak," said De Wit. "Of course I will be trying to my best to help find solutions to these remaining problems.”

You are here