Refugees are not quitting work to live off benefits, officials say


Utrecht council officials have denied reports that ‘dozens’ of refugees have given up their jobs after being allocated a home in the city this summer because they would rather live off benefits.

The claims, made in the Financieele Dagblad and based on an anonymous employer and council official, have led to parliamentary questions and were seized on by far right politicians as evidence that asylum seekers are milking the system.

Utrecht’s executive board has now issued a statement saying that this year, six of the 650 refugees the city had to house have given up their jobs at an ‘international fast food chain’ but that this was unconnected to being given a home. At least two others may have done so.

The council statement said that current rules make it difficult for refugees to find and keep jobs and the shift from refugee centre to own home is complex. ‘A refugee who is finally allocated a house has to meet their financial obligations, such as paying rent and buying food.’

Illness, the lack of childcare and poor working conditions also have an impact. At the same time, refugees often work for the minimum wage or have a zero hours contract and rely on ‘top up measures’, the statement said. They also have to undergo an intensive, three year integration project which can be hard to combine with a job.

In August, Utrecht reserved all available housing for refugees who had been granted residency status in an effort to cut the waiting list. Usually, just 30% of housing is reserved for ‘vulnerable’ groups, a definition which includes refugees.

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