Asylum seekers are to be encouraged to take on voluntary work while they wait to hear the outcome of their application to stay in the Netherlands.
The change of approach was announced by Jan-Kees Goet, director of the asylum seekers centres organisation COA, in an interview with the Volkskrant.
Those waiting for the outcome of their application will be encouraged to volunteer at places such as neighbourhood centres or local football clubs.
‘It’s no good to me to have them staring out of the window,’ Goet told the paper. ‘They become depressed. You need to keep them as active as possible so they have the strength for the next step, whether in the Netherlands or back in their own country.’
Goet took over as director of the COA in 2011 and oversaw a major reorganisation in a period of low immigration, during which 14 centres were closed and 40% of the staff was made redundant.
However, the increase in asylum seekers this summer means he has reopened a number of centres and is ringing former workers asking them to return to work.
Goet expects the number of asylum seekers this year to reach 17,000, the highest figure since 2002. Many of them come from Syria, fleeing the civil war, but large numbers of Eritreans and Somalians are also arriving in the Netherlands.