New cabinet moves on asylum seekers

The new government, which was formally sworn in today, seems to be doing all it can to ensure that it is not saddled with the painful legacy of the hardline decisions on immigration and asylum seekers made by the outgoing administration .

Yesterday justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin told MPs he will use his powers to grant a failed asylum seeker residential status if there is a convincing reason to do so on humanitarian grounds.
Asylum seekers who had had their residency applications turned down were able to appeal directly to the minister in ‘exceptional cases’ as long as the appeal was made before March 2005 and the asylum seeker had already lived in the Netherlands for five years.
Ballin said exceptional cases could involve an asylum seeker who is seriously ill or where, for example, children have been granted the right to stay in the Netherlands but not the parents. He said he will examine every case put to him individually. Almost 19,000 letters of appeal were received by the justice ministry between 2003 and 2005.
The definition of the criteria the minister will use for his decisions follows a test case ruling by the Council of State in December. This said that Ballin’s predessecor Rita Verdonk had not given sufficient reason for rejecting an appeal by a man who had lived in the Netherlands for 14 years.
One of the first announcements made by the Balkenende IV cabinet was that there is to an amnesty (general pardon) for long-term asylum seekers, originally 26,000 people, who arrived in the Netherlands before 2001. And earlier this week Ballin said he would follow the wishes of parliament and grant residency permits to a group of 181 Syrians.

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