The number of people claiming asylum in the Netherlands this year is so far well below government forecasts, broadcaster NOS reported at the weekend.
Just over 18,300 new asylum seekers reported for processing between January and the end of May, which is down 1,300 on last year, NOS said, quoting figures from refugee settlement agency COA.
If the pattern were repeated throughout the year as a whole, the total number of new arrivals would be less than 45,000 – far below the government’s expected 70,000 plus.
The official May figures have yet to be published and are due out in the coming days.
At the same time, the number of people currently in official refugee accommodation remains stable at 53,000, according to COA.
Of them, however, 16,000 live in temporary shelters such as converted gyms and event centres. And a further 16,000 are waiting to move into regular homes because they have been given official refugee status.
On Sunday, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte was part of a four-strong delegation to Tunisia which aimed at reaching agreement with Tunisia on stopping refugees from reaching Europe in return for cash.
And last week, European immigration ministers reached an agreement in Luxemburg on how to deal with asylum seekers arriving at the bloc’s borders, in a move described by Dutch minister Erik van der Burg as “a very important step”.
One proposal focuses on asylum seekers arriving at the borders without identity papers and on those who are considered to be unlikely to qualify for refugee status, such as nationals from safe countries such as Morocco and Algeria.
The second proposal focuses on spreading asylum seekers throughout Europe to ensure that border countries such as Italy and Greece are not overloaded.
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