Government claw-back stops refugees taking jobs: Volkskrant

Refugees at Ter Apel
Photo: Peter de Ruiter/ UNHCR Brussel

Refugees living in asylum seeker centres sometimes turn down jobs because so little cash is left over once they have paid a contribution for their board and upkeep to the refugee settlement agency, the Volkskrant said on Friday.

Refugees have been asked to pay a contribution toward the cost of their accommodation since 2008. Asylum seekers are allowed to work for up to 24 weeks a year once they have been in the country longer than six months.

Last year, the agency collected €109,000 in personal contributions from refugees – either via work or from their personal assets. Given thousands of people are currently living in refugee centres, this would indicate few are doing paid work, the Volkskrant said..

Mohannad El Jechi, a refugee the Volkskrant has been following since his arrival in the Netherlands, says he was asked by a COA employee it if was really worth picking apples for a month to make €196 – the amount he would be left with after paying for his own and his family’s upkeep.

‘The COA employee asked me: are you sure you want to pick apples for a month for that? If not, you’re better off tearing up the contract,’ said El Jechi. He eventually decided not to take the job.

Work experience

A spokeswoman for the refugee agency said the organisation encourages people to work. ‘I don’t know what my colleague said and I can’t say anything about that. It’s not just the financial aspect that’s important. It is about getting working experience and learning the language too. Working helps make you a part of society.

Dutch refugee foundation VluchtelingenWerk told the paper it had heard of asylum seekers turning down job offers when they discover that it doesn’t pay much.

‘We know from previous experience that the longer people are inactive, the more difficult it is to get them working. It’s important that people start participating actively while living in centres, especially now that the waiting times for houses are increasing,’ a spokesman said.

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