Junior justice minister Fred Teeven plans to relax the prison regime for failed asylum seekers, following pressure from the coalition Labour party, the Volkskrant reports on Wednesday.
Labour had made a ‘more humane’ policy towards would-be immigrants a key demand to win its support for making it a criminal offence to be an illegal immigrant.
Under the new plans, only criminal and aggressive failed asylum seekers will be locked up. Others awaiting deportation will remain in an open prison or will have to report regularly to the authorities, the Volkskrant said.
‘The serious regime will apply to those with a criminal conviction and with behavioural problems,’ Teeven told the paper. ‘That means people who attack and spit at guards. The rest will follow a lighter regime… which allows them to go out.’
Asylum seekers are now locked up in jail to await deportation. Everyone who applies for asylum at Schiphol airport is also put in detention.
Teeven’s change of heart follows the suicide of Russian dissident Alexander Dolmatov, who killed himself after being wrongly locked up to await deportation. A number of failed asylum seekers have gone on hunger strike in recent weeks in protest at being jailed.
The new policy is also coupled with Teeven’s plans to reduce the number of places in refugee detention centres from 2,081 to 933, the paper points out.
Refugee aid group Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland welcomed the move to jail fewer refugees. ‘These people have done nothing, just asked for protection,’ a spokesman said. ‘They do not belong in jail.’
The agency pointed out that a growing number of organisations and legal experts have spoken out against the way people are jailed in the Netherlands pending deportation. ‘It should be a last resort,’ the spokesman said.