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The exclusion machine at full throttle

On the 25th of June 1999 the Ministry of Jutice presented its new proposal????????? Repatriation Policy, one of the miriad of steps in their 'step by step' plan to reduce immigration to a minimum. When parliament returns in September from the summer recess, the proposal will be examined.

Despite numerous attempts by the Ministry of Justice, aliens will not simply disappear form the current landscape.

Therefore the exclusion machine is being tuned up and oiled once more. Parts are being replaced and once again it reaches full power. Of course, there is the option of throwing a little grit into the gearbox.

This repatriation proposal is more of the sma e, with a few desperate remedies thrown in. Such as kicking refugees out of shelters as soon as there is any negative verdict over their request for asylum and then driving them into illegality. Then once those 'illegal aliens' are picked up any where labelling them as 'unwanted'.

No end to the final details

The Ministry of Justice claims again and again that deportations are a valuable part of any believable and logical immigration policy and again and again they develop yet more final details. They complain that repatriation remains such an intractable part of immigration policy. The practicalities of expelling refugees and immigrants are problematic. Removing them from the statistics is a mere trifle 'departed' as written against the names of those who legal battles have been lost and the Ministry of Justice believes its own lies. But in reality getting rid of these people is not that easy. Many countries of origin are extremely unstable or are unwilling to re-accept citizens who have fled. Sometimes the neccesary documents do not exist and it is uncertain what a persons country of origin actually is. The police then simply dump those they cannot deal with on the street where they become illegals immigrants and can be dealt with at another time.

Over the years the justice system has redeveloped many parts of their apparatus of expulsion, but still it fails to function any better. New ideas and methods such as prisons for the illegal with repatriation officers, expulsion centre Ter Appel, with its deportation unit, and so called 'expulsion expertise', mobile assistant teams in order to assist local authorities with evicting refugees, the project 'voluntary repatriation', which exists whilst no one wants or is able to repatriate themselves. They have developed things such as grants for those willing to leave, EU documents to be able to deport those without passports, agreemants with countries of origin to encourage them to take their migrants back, declaration that certain (third) countries are safe havens. They also have created a whole array of tricks such deporting people to the wrong country or with invalid travel documents, often time and time again in the hope that they will be accepted somewhere. And yet these tricks do not reduce the numbers entering this country or increase the numbers leaving.

Instead of simply finding out why refugees and immigrants will not let themselves be kept out and why they cannot and will not return to where they came from, they tinker with the machinery of deportation. The repatriation proposal lays the responsibility for repatriation emphatically on the shoulders of the refugee or immigrant themselves. The justice system attempts to cover its impotence by passing the buck of failed and hopeless policies to their victims. The 'personal responsibility' implies chiefly that the refugee co-operates with their own expulsion, arranges any neccesary travel documents and is also allowed to react to any negative decisions of the judicial system regarding their applications for refugee status, a reaction that is taken into consideration in the final judgements. The rejected refugee is allowed to take a small part in the dutch system of concencus before returning home.

Thrown onto the streets.

Upon receiving a negative judgement the refugee is given four weeks to leave the Netherlands, after which time he or she may be forcibly deported, and is also refused further access to any support they may be getting. This does not only imply that they have no place to sleep but also are denied access to medical care, pocket money, food, legal support and what little education that is available for children in the refugee centres. They are forced into living as illegal immigrants in constant fear of the police.

Declared undesirables.

The legal system makes great use of the label 'undesirables' as a means of dealing with refugess and immigrants. This label was once introduced as part of the Immigration Law (art. 21 Vw) its purpose was to make overstaying in or returning to the Netherlands, punishable offences. It is a penalty clause in the immigration laws that can be applied to repeat offenders , those who threaten public order, those who's prescence in the Netherlands is unlawful, upon being convicted of a crime for which the punishment is three or more years imprisonment or in accordance with international treaties or interests. Criminal law (art. 197 WvS) rules that an alien who knows or suspects that he has been declared 'undesirable' can be punished with up to six months imprisonment. Should someone who has been deported either return or be found to be

continuing living in the Netherlands he or she can also be declared 'undesirable'. These are cases where public order is weighed up against a individual interests. What that actually means as regards the detention of immigrants can be easily seen from the numbers of people who are detained and how long they are kept imprisoned.

The legal system will be making increasing use of the catagory 'undesirables' and will be using the Aliens laws of 1994. Once a refugee has failed to report to the police when required or is stopped by the police and found to be illegal he or she can be declared to be undesirable. This declaration can be made whenever the law decides that a foreigner forms a 'threat to public order, peace or national security'. For many years people have been being locked up on these grounds which are extremely vague and open to all maner of interpretations. It is as if the legal system had an official sticker to label people with: persona non grata.

The police have also claimed that the threat of being declared an undesirable shall hang over illegal immigrants and encourage them to leave the Netherlands. The use of this label works to stigmatise and criminalise migrants and refugees.

Increasing incarceration of foreigners.

The legal system will increase its use of detention of foreigners.

In order to discourage illegal residence the Repatriation Proposal in the Immigration Law permits detention for up to four weeks. The Ministry of Justice claims that a large number of refugees go into hiding as soon as their deportation documents are ready. Therefore they would like to take into custody those people who are about to be deported or who they applying for permission to deport . This is a new stage of detainment in the process of applying for a residence permit.. Does this mean that a refugee will be locked up as soon as a negative judgement about his or her case is made? And what now of the immigrants chance to leave the country of his or her own free will that was once deemed so important?

This recently passed law also rules that applications for asylum from those who enter the country without valid travel documents are immediately turned down and that those refugees can be detained should they be seen as being responsible for the fact that they have no papers. The new new Immigration law of 2001 also contains measures to deal with the entry of those without travel documents. The fact that using ones own passport and name when fleeing a country is very dangerous indeed seems to have been forgotten. In this case he interests of the legal system have once again been placed foremost, it is impossible to deport someone without a passport or other identity document.

Stop and Imprison

The opportunities to arrest will be increased if the Immigration Law of 2001 is passed. In the proposals for it the principle of "concrete indications of illegal residence' is replaced by one of 'reasonable suspicion of illegal residence', just as it was in 1994. What 'reasonable suspicion' actually is , is left unclear. The Ministry of Justice claims that there are enough existing precedents to ensure that cannot be used in a discriminatory way. The organisations that will be charged with using and enforcing this section of the law themselves admit that they stop and detain innumerable people on the grounds of skin colour.

Real refugees and Economic Migrants.

The number of legal statusses available to those seeking refuge here is being reduced to two. Refugee status for an unlimited period, for those 'real' refugees and a temporary residence permit for asylum seekers who are involved in a legal case, which is exchanged for permission to reside indefinitely should a legal case not being resolved within three years. This monochrome view of real and fake, those with a chance and those without ignores all nuances that an individual's case may have.. The legal system is not the only agency willing to take this black and white approach, Vluchtelingwerk Nederland ( Netherlands Refugeework) has blindly followed the legal system and is only willing to aid 'real' refugees.

Ter Appel is everywhere.

In theory immigrants will have to stay and wait for the results of their legal case in only one refugee centre. The Expulsion Centre Ter Appel , which was up until now the one and only end point for those who had no further legal steps to take, will be sharing it's 'expertise' and 'know how' with every other refugee centre. Every refugee centre will become a sort of Ter Appel. One new department that each refugee centre will be getting, farmed out from Ter Appel will be the Expulsion Unit, these are staffed by military police and members of the Immigration and Naturalisation Department. The purpose of these units is kick people out. Despite the lack of success in this refugees are still subjected to frequent and intimidating interrogations concerning repatriation, sometimes several times a day. Those who will not be bullied are branded as non-co-operative, at which point they can be put out onto the streets. This step of kicking refugees out of the very centres that are supposed to provide them support is taking place at an ever earlier point in the legal wrangles over whether or not they are to be granted refugee status.

Right to appeal denied

Refugees will soon be denied the right to appeal against a decision made to deny them asylum. The Repatriation Proposal claims that before this right to appeal is denied the quality of the IND's decision making process must be improved. This decision making process seems to be failing somewhere. The proposal claims that this decision making process can be improved by allowing the refugee to comment on an initial judgement and that any comment he or she makes be taken into account before making a final verdict. A simple formality whereby the refugee seems to be expected to agree to being denied asylum, and one that is based upon the doubtful notion that the IND has any intention of listening to the wishes of refugees.

The refugee is still permitted to appeal to the Privy Council (Raad van Staat) but will no longer be permitted to remain in the Netherlands to wait for the verdict.

Organisational Measures

The various different organisations that deal with refugees, such as the Immigration and Naturalisation Service, Central Relief for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration will be working more closely together. They will each sign an 'Expulsion Contract' wherein it will be stated how many refugees they have to get rid of.

A national co-ordinator for expulsions will be responsible for the results acheived regional teams will carry out the expulsion and the whole organisation will be monitored by a steering group. This will consist of the national co-ordinator, and bureaucrats from an almost endless number of gorvernment departments.

High Level Working Group

The High Level Working Group (HLWG) for refugee and migration issues is a dutch initiative, a think tank that uses the Treaty of Amsterdam as its basis. This treaty states that measures to deal with illegal immigration, illegal residence and deportation must be made throughout the European Union within five years of its being signed. Harmonisation of European laws in order to reduce the numbers of immigrants and make it easier to deport those who do manage to come here.

The HLWG has been given the task to develop a communal strategy and approach towards a number of countries of origin and passage for which specific plans of action have been developed for repatriation(Afganistan, Pakistan, Albania and its surrounding area, Morocco, Somalia and Sri Lanka). The HLWG is also responsible for analysing what it is that cause a population to migrate or flee, and to map out bi- and multi- lateral co-operation. To these ends they plan to co-operate more closely with the UNHCR, the IOM and other NGO's.

You scratch my back.....

The granting of aid to developing countries is being increasingly tied to their willingness to re-accept refugees. At the end of 1999 the Ministry of Justice evaluated the programme 'assisted repatriation' to Angola and Ethiopia, a programme that had originally been called 'voluntary repatriation'. This programme failed to attract any interest. The ways in which a countries willingness to re-accept refugees can be coupled to the amount of economic aid it receives are being looked into. This group from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Policy intends to tighten the connection between repatriation and aid.

The Benelux countries have already made treaties covering the acceptance and re-acceptance of immigrants with a number of East European countries, such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia. These have yet to be agreed to by Parliament. Further agreements with Armenia, Croatia and the Czeck Republic are being prepared. Negotiations with ex-Yugoslavia have been stopped and the way in which refugees from Kosovo are being dealt with shows how keen the legal system is to get rid of people.

Yet More

The department Mobile Surveillance of Foreigners is expanding and increasing it's border controls, Eurodac is approaching: international exchange of fingerprints, 'immigration control workers' are training airline staff and foreign customs officers. There are proposals for even more boarding and exit controls, airlines are being made to keep copies of customers documents. And for those without residence permits here in the Netherlands there is the Koppelingwet . Is it not high time to declare the Ministry of Justice as undesirable?


Nieuwe Vreemdelingenwet, concept 21 April 1999, to which the cabinet has given its support and is been examined by the Privy Council.

Regeerakkord 1998/1999

Terugkeernotitie 25 June 1999

Terugkeerbeleid afgewezen asielzoekers, report Algemene Rekenkamer, 1998/1999.

Beeldvorming onder (uitgeproduceerde) asielzoekers en vluchtelingen over terugkeer- en remigratie(beleid), Philip Muus and Paulien Muller, Ercomer April 1999.


Second Chamber, parliamentry year 1995-1996, 19 637 and 24 440,nr. 145.

2. Second Chamber parliamentry year 1995-1996, 19 637, nr. 179.

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