NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 08:55
The pressure on politicians to allow asylum seekers to work fully in the Netherlands is increasing. Asylum seekers are now allowed to work 24 weeks a year under certain conditions. This restriction does not apply to Ukrainian refugees: they are allowed to work as an employee without a work permit.
Esam Alaslmy from Yemen is very disappointed with the rules. He has been living in the emergency shelter in Vlissingen for more than a year and does not know when his asylum procedure will be completed. Before that, he lived in Saudi Arabia and worked in the financial sector as an IT specialist for six years. He actively monitors vacancies in his field and receives offers from companies via Linkedin. But when they hear that he does not yet have a residence permit, they drop out because of the obstacles to accepting asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers have to meet quite a few conditions: they are only allowed to work after 6 months, no longer than 24 weeks and they need a work permit that employers must apply for at the UWV. They also have to open a bank account into which their salary can be deposited and for that they need a BSN number. That is still a challenge because the queue for registration in the basic registration has increased enormously, from more than 2,000 people waiting in January 2022 to 13,440 on May 10, 2023. Asylum seekers who have found an employer are eligible for an urgent procedure of two weeks.
Participate from day one
Today the House of Representatives is debating whether the obstacles can be lifted. The reason for the debate is the initiative memorandum ‘Participation from day one’ by D66 MP Anne-Marijke Podt.
She wants to remove the obstacles and offer asylum seekers quicker access to language lessons and studies. She wants asylum seekers to be able to integrate as quickly as Ukrainians. They can register with any municipality and start working from day one, without restrictions. A work permit is not required, an employer only had to register a Ukrainian employee with the UWV.
Support is growing
Public support for helping asylum seekers to find work earlier is growing. Professors wrote a manifesto and the VNG and all Utrecht municipalities asked Minister Karien van Gennip (Social Affairs) to temporarily remove the obstacles and to ensure that promising asylum seekers can find work as soon as possible.
“If asylum seekers are linked early to a municipality where they already have a job, it will save the municipality a benefit and promote integration,” says a spokesman for the King’s Commissioner in Utrecht. “For asylum seekers, unless you have major trauma, it is also better to get started right away instead of sitting aimlessly on the edge of your bed. In the end, it is better for everyone.”
The court recently ruled that the limitation of a maximum of 24 weeks is contrary to European law. Regioplan, which works on behalf of the cabinet, also advised to let go of that maximum number of weeks. Tightness on the labor market and the experiences with Ukrainians who were allowed to work immediately, now provide momentum and possible support for abolishing the barriers, thinks Podt.
However, it remains to be seen whether there is a majority for the proposal in the House of Representatives. Opponents, including the VVD, say that linking asylum seekers to work may constitute a promise of permanent residence; the 24-week limitation was introduced to prevent people who have received a negative decision from the IND from still being entitled to benefits. The CDA, which is needed for a majority, does not want to say whether it wants to support Podt’s plan.
Trials in other counties
A trial is now underway in Almere with a Randstad office in the asylum seekers centre. Together with the employment agency, the COA tries to match asylum seekers with employers. They draw up a profile of asylum seekers and then search for the best match within a pool of 100 interested employers. In this way, 22 people have already been linked to employers, including five asylum seekers. However, they must comply with legal restrictions.
A trial will also start soon in Leersum to actively help asylum seekers find work from the azc.