NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 20:06
A logical statement and a major breakthrough. For example, Lieneke Slingenberg, professor of migration law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, mentions the ruling in which the Council of State determined that asylum seekers may no longer be limited in the number of weeks they want to work per year.
“The main limitation to finding work for asylum seekers is that ’24-week requirement’,” says Slingenberg. Together with Regioplan, she conducted research on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs into the obstacles for asylum seekers when entering the labor market.
The effects are large and important and the rule has long been in conflict with regulations within the European Union, Slingenberg concludes.
Tesseltje de Lange, professor at Radboud University Nijmegen, also confirms the importance. “The ruling is rock solid. Asylum seekers have the right to work. Their independence is emphasized and the prevention of social isolation and exclusion.”
She also emphasizes that the Council of State not only states that asylum seekers should not be hindered in accessing work, but also that it entails costs for the Netherlands if asylum seekers cannot work.
“More employers will be inclined to hire asylum seekers,” says Ricky van Oers, migration scientist at Radboud University. “Previously, it was not worthwhile for employers to invest time and energy in the procedure to apply for a work permit, while an asylum seeker was forced to stop working again after 24 weeks.”
The Council of State explicitly referred to Regioplan’s research in its ruling. “Our research has played a role. That is very nice,” says Slingenberg.
Most other countries in Europe have a waiting period before asylum seekers are allowed to work. The Netherlands too, here it is six months. “But I have not seen any other examples of the fact that there is still a limitation in the time you can work,” says Slingenberg.
The provision that asylum seekers may work for a limited time dates from 1998. Initially, the maximum period was twelve weeks and only seasonal work was allowed. About 4 percent of asylum seekers who came to the Netherlands between 2017 and 2021 are currently working. The explanation is that people whose asylum application is still pending are often unable to get work, precisely because they are only allowed to work for 24 weeks.
“I expect there will be an increase in the number of employers who will hire asylum seekers,” says Slingenberg. For Ukrainians, only registration is required, so there are even fewer barriers, says Van Oers. “There you see that the half of the displaced people are now working.”
There was no political support to scrap the requirement, says Van Oers. “The VVD in particular was afraid that if asylum seekers were allowed to work indefinitely, this could send the message that they were allowed to stay.”
But that’s not right, she thinks. “We conducted research to see whether the mere fact that you work somewhere could also create a right to residence and we found no examples of this.”
The assumption was also that people would be able to build up unemployment benefits after 24 weeks and then receive benefits abroad if their asylum application was rejected. That is also not correct, according to Slingenberg, because you cannot simply take the right to unemployment benefits with you to another country. Furthermore, it is already linked to the residence status of an asylum seeker.
The Netherlands Council for Refugees is delighted with the ruling of the Council of State. “The ruling of the highest administrative court finally puts an end to one of the obstacles that the Dutch government has placed for asylum seekers and employers.”
The organization has been advocating for faster and better access for asylum seekers to the labor market for years. “Asylum seekers are very motivated to get to work, especially now that they are staying in shelters for a long time. It promotes integration, is good for self-esteem and due to the shortage on the labor market, employers are desperate for workers.”
D66 member Anne-Marijke Podt is also happy with the ruling, but also wants to lay down the tenor in law and arrange a number of other matters. “Like the fact that the asylum seeker can start working after just one month,” she says on X.