Asylum minister Eric van der Burg has vowed to end support for third-country nationals who fled Ukraine next week despite conflicting court rulings on the issue.
The local government association VNG and refugee agency Vluchtelingenwerk have both called for the cabinet to wait until the issue has been resolved, but Van der Burg said that the deadline had been looming for six months.
“Everyone knew on March 4 that it would expire on September 4, so the third-country nationals can’t say they didn’t see it coming,” the minister said.
Several refugees from Ukraine who worked or studied there on visas until the Russian invasion have challenged the Dutch government’s plan to exclude non-Ukrainians from the European Union’s special asylum regime.
Around 4,600 of the 100,000 refugees from Ukraine currently registered as living in the Netherlands are third-country nationals. Around 700 have applied for asylum through the regular system; the others will have 28 days to leave their accommodation from Monday.
This week the district courts in The Hague and Limburg both ruled that the minister did not have the power to exclude people from an EU-wide regulation, even though it was his decision to include them originally.
But the Midden-Nederland court, sitting in Utrecht, said Van der Burg was entitled to amend the regulations in order to prevent the asylum accommodation system becoming overcrowded.
Van der Burg has said he will appeal in the cases that the government lost because “we need clarity from the Council of State”.
The heads of the 25 municipalities that are responsible for most of the refugee accommodation in the Netherlands said in a letter to Van der Burg that they were worried about councils being “held responsible for irrevocable decisions”.
They also fear refugees will disappear from the system and continue living in the country illegally if they are given an ultimatum next week.
Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland called on the minister to wait for the Council of State’s ruling. “Withdrawing accommodation for third-country nationals without a definitive ruling on whether the Netherlands can do it is a recipe for chaos,” a spokesman said.
But Van der Burg said that notifying refugees that they were losing the right to stay in the country did not conflict with the Netherlands’ obligations.
“It’s not the same as forcing people to leave, because that isn’t until 28 days after the notification and by then we will have clarity,” he said.
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