MPs are debating plans to change the rules to allow asylum seekers to work more, whether or not they have been granted settled status.
Refugees currently have to be in the country for six months before they can take paid employment, and even then they are limited to a maximum of 24 hours a week.
The rules do not apply to refugees from Ukraine, who have been exempted from most of the asylum restrictions under the European Union’s “temporary protection” scheme.
The statistics agency CBS said in February that 46% of people who had fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion were working. That figure rises to 68% for non-Ukrainian nationals, who make up around 8% of the total.
D66 MP Anne-Marijke Podt said other refugees should be able to integrate into Dutch society just as quickly as Ukrainians, by giving them access to language classes and allowing them to work as soon as they are registered with a municipality.
The government also needs to change the rules in the wake of a court ruling last month in a case brought by a 25-year-old Nigerian man working in a slaughterhouse in Harderwijk.
Judges in Arnhem ordered the state jobs agency UWV to give the man a work permit and said Dutch restrictions conflicted with European rules that say asylum seekers should have access to the jobs market so they can become self-sufficient.
Local officials also say that allowing new arrivals to work sooner will help them settle faster.
“If asylum seekers are connected to a local authority where they have a job as soon as possible it saves the municipality a welfare payment and promotes integration,” a spokesman for the king’s commissioner in Utrecht told NOS.
“It’s also much better for asylum seekers, unless they are severely traumatised, to get to work straight away instead of aimlessly sitting at the end of their beds.”
Parties opposing the plan include the VVD, the largest party in the coalition, who argue that giving refugees too many rights early on will encourage them to believe they will be allowed to stay for the long term.
The Christian Democrats (CDA), whose support for the plan is vital for it to pass the Lower House, have not said if they will back it.
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