ANP Remko de Waal Asylum seekers on hunger strike demonstrate at the emergency shelter where they are staying to draw attention to the lengthy procedure at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 15:00
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) cannot keep up with the number of applications for asylum and is reaching its limits. Not only because of the high number of applications, but also because legislation and regulations are becoming more complex and, with that, the motivation that the IND must give when making decisions.
In addition, the service is struggling with outdated computer systems and an unrealistic budget, which is unable to adequately respond to changes in the number of people coming to the Netherlands. This is stated in a report published today by the IND.
At the moment, about 40,000 people are waiting for a decision on their asylum application, while the IND can take about 22,000 decisions per year. Director-General Rhodia Maas expects that applicants will have to wait longer for a decision in 2023 and probably also in 2024. As a result, the service, in its own estimation, must also pay millions in penalty payments.
Especially in asylum cases, the IND cannot keep up with the pace. The decision period for an average asylum application doubled from twenty to forty weeks last year. Although the legal term for deciding on asylum applications was extended from nine to fifteen months last year, in October 85 percent of cases were taken outside the legal term. Other applications, for example to study or work as an expat in the Netherlands, are usually processed within the term.
Below you can see the total migration flows
Migration Advisory CouncilOverview of migration forms
In recent months, asylum seekers went on hunger strike in several places in the country to get clarity about their asylum application. The provision of information must be improved, the IND acknowledges in the report. “I think it is extremely important that applicants notice that the IND has not forgotten them,” says director-general Maas. “And that they know how long they have to wait. That really needs to be improved.”
About 6,000 migrants have been waiting for their first interview at the IND for more than six months, says asylum lawyer Floor Engelbertink. They are sometimes in tents, sports halls or other large shelters without privacy. “The worst thing is that it is very random. Some have a decision after five months, others only after 12 months. Research also shows that the longer they live aimlessly in such an asylum seekers’ centre, the more psychological problems arise.”
The backlog at the IND is increasing, as this graph shows:
To keep pace with demand, the IND would have to grow two to three times as large. Earlier, the organization already announced that it would not hire that many people. The IND wants to grow in a ‘sustainable’ way so that the supporting departments can still cope with the work. Moreover, it takes more than a year before new decision-making assistants can independently decide on asylum applications.
The IND itself mainly sees the benefit in a more efficient working method. For example, the service wants to place the burden of proof ‘more’ on the asylum seeker, process decisions for promising applications from Syria and Yemen more quickly and partly in writing, and decide just as quickly on underprivileged applications from Algeria and Moldova as on requests for applications from people from countries that the list for ‘safe countries’.
The service also wants to focus on the applicant’s individual asylum account again and make less ‘categorical’ decisions, in other words a standard ‘yes’ answer to applicants from certain countries. This should lead to a decrease in the acceptance rate (the number of people who receive a positive decision on their asylum application). Last year that was 85 percent in the Netherlands compared to 48 percent in Europe.
The Council for Refugees points out that procedures have already been simplified and the workforce has doubled since 2015. The aid organization calls the announced measures “unrealistic within the European frameworks for implementation. After all, the IND is already struggling with huge backlogs, changes in the assessment of asylum applications will only make this worse.”
According to lawyer Engelbertink, the burden of proof in court cases already lies with the asylum seeker. “Tightening country policy is certainly a possibility, but it must be done carefully with extensive and expert research into the security situation.” So that also takes a lot of time. Engelbertink sees the solution in structurally more money and personnel for the immigration service.
An unrealistic budget leads to implementation problems at the IND year after year, the Court of Audit also concluded last week. According to the controller of government expenditure, the IND should be financed ‘more stable’, independent of forecasts that are often already a year old .