Jan 12, 2023 at 4:46 PM
Can the cabinet postpone family reunification for status holders? Several judges ruled at the end of last year that this is contrary to the law, after which the cabinet decided to appeal. The State Attorney defended the policy before the Council of State on Thursday: the measure is necessary to avert the reception crisis. But according to the asylum lawyers, that is no reason not to comply with the law as a government.
Restricting family reunification for refugees with residence status is part of the asylum agreement that the coalition concluded last summer. As a result of the measure, family members of status holders have to wait six months longer before they are allowed to travel to the Netherlands, unless a home becomes available sooner.
According to the cabinet, the much-discussed measure is necessary because of the reception crisis. The State Attorney therefore started her speech on Thursday with the situation at the application center Ter Apel. Last summer, hundreds of people regularly had to spend the night outside because there were not enough beds.
At the moment, the acute crisis is over and there are empty beds. But thousands of refugees are still staying in the (crisis) emergency shelter, where conditions are very bad. At the end of last year, the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that the reception does not meet European standards.
What is the Council of State?
The Council of State has two important tasks: to give independent advice on bills and to administer justice. These two departments work separately. As the highest administrative court in the country, the Council of State rules in disputes between citizens and the government. Formally, the king is the chairman, but that is actually vice-president Thom de Graaf.
Measure is necessary according to state lawyer
According to the state lawyer, it is precisely this reception crisis that calls for “unorthodox” solutions. The government has found this solution by temporarily delaying family reunification. According to her, this measure was “not taken lightly” and necessary.
Moreover, the State Attorney argues that the family members, if they come to the Netherlands, will probably be received under very poor conditions. That is a violation of human rights.
Several courts rule that policy is against the law
This argument was not accepted by the asylum lawyers, because limiting family reunification is also a violation of human rights. “It is not the intention to choose between elementary rights. Both must be protected in a country like the Netherlands,” responded asylum lawyer Eva Bezem.
Like her two colleagues, she emphasized that the government itself caused the reception crisis. According to the asylum lawyers, the political motives therefore do not matter.
They recognized that the reception crisis is a distressing problem. “I understand that a solution is being sought, but that is only allowed within the limits of the law. This goes beyond it,” said asylum lawyer Corrien Ullersma.
At the end of last year, several courts ruled that the restriction on family reunification is in violation of the law. According to the asylum lawyers, the mere lack of a legal basis is a reason to sweep the measure off the table.
Asylum lawyers are concerned about the rule of law
At the start of the hearing, asylum lawyer Jorg Werner expressed their concerns about the course of events on behalf of the lawyers. “We are very concerned about the rule of law. It is evident that the measure is in conflict with national legislation and European law. The government itself is bound by the law.”
Ullersma emphasized this again at the end of the session. “Of course the government must look at all interests in conjunction. But all interests have a common denominator: the government must comply with the law. That is a lower limit that you cannot fall through.”
The Council of State expects to make a decision in mid-February
The Council of State aims to make a decision in mid-February. Until then, the family reunification measure will remain suspended, the cabinet announced on Wednesday.
The State Secretary has decided to do so, because he expects that other lawsuits will follow. It is expected that these judges will also rule in favor of the beneficiaries. The cabinet wants to prevent these “unnecessary procedures”.
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