There is no proof that Dutch policy on asylum is an incentive for refugees to apply for asylum in the Netherlands rather than any other country, research on behalf of the justice ministry knowledge centre WODC has shown.
The report debunks the popular idea that domestic policy influences asylum seeker numbers. One of government party VVD’s main election campaign proposals is to tighten immigration rules and it has suggested that speeding up asylum seekers’ access to work, for example, would encourage greater numbers.
Earlier research by Maastricht University had already ascertained that safety rather rather than asylum policy is the overriding concern for people often fleeing war, persecution and natural disasters.
Lack of safety in transit countries and the inhuman circumstances in refugee camps also play a role in seeking refuge in the Netherlands, the new report said.
Researchers also found that when a refugee eventually applies for asylum, much depends on a having a network, on infrastructure and financial means.
Having family and friends in the Netherlands is a factor, as are “the general safety situation, prosperity and the economic situation”, none of which have to do with asylum policy, the report said.
Criteria for asylum or rules around allowing family to join settled refugees could however have “some influence” on refugees’ decision to leave one European country for another. But this is of minor importance because European rules are largely similar in this respect, the researchers said.
The number of new refugees coming to the Netherlands hit 7,900 in the second quarter of this year, an increase of almost 600 on the same period in 2022 and 15% up on the first three months.
But so far this year, arrivals are well down on the government forecasts, which suggested more than 76,000 people could apply for asylum in the Netherlands in 2023.
That forecast led to crisis talks and calls for measures to reduce the flow of new arrivals, following last summer’s chaotic scenes when hundreds of people were forced to sleep outdoors. The Dutch government fell over its inability to reach agreement on asylum policy.
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