the expulsion machine at full throttle
european cooperation and opposition, december 1997
the removal policy, december 1997
The Removal Policy
Return project, return teams, project coordinator Return, Mobile Assistance Teams Return, ending of ROA-regulation, Junction Group Voluntary Return, Return Office. In the Dutch removal policy no longer is spoken of 'expulsion or removal', return is the motto. As if people are returning home from a holiday. Voluntarily or not voluntarily. June 3th under-secretary of Justice Schmitz published the report 'Terugkeerbeleid' ('Return Policy'). This will be the guideline for the future. From the start of the asylum procedure the notion of removal should become more clear. Refugee councils and city councils should aid the government in this. Mobile Assis- tance Teams will help the city councils in ending the ROA regula- tion for asylum-seekers whose procedure have ended. In interna- tional deliberation, for example with negotiations about EU coop- eration agreements, return agreements will have to be enclosed.
It is clear that the expulsion policy in the Netherlands has a shaky base. And for a good reason too. Time and time again, the government achieves to manufacture politically coloured official reports about the situation in the countries of origin. These reports rather look as if they function as part of the removal policy (there's many, so they have to go) instead of representing the situation in the country of origin. A recent example is Iran, but with Somaliland and Sri Lanka it can also be seen. Not only the supposed security in the countries of origin is doubted by many organisations. The way in which some refugees were expulsed in large groups, also led to much protest. Eurocharters with refugees from Zaire; failed missions to Somalia, they are examples of inexorable government policy. The threatening expul- sion of large groups of refugees from Zaire was the sign to start a renewed church asylum. When Iranian refugees were also in peril, many of them started hungerstrikes. For years the Ministry of Justice has kept refugees dangling on a string: few of them got residence permits, many went in appeal. The last year the official reports were adapted at a fast rate. Many different countries of origin were declared safe. Furthermore the ministry of Justice is busy concluding 'return-agreements' with countries of origin that previously refused to accept people who did not have documents. The restriction of the asylum policy also plays an important role. Recently there was a further restriction on people without docu- ments. One can ask: who is allowed to stay?
The rising tide
The numbers show that expulsions are becoming a big problem for
the government. In 1992 it concerned 7534 rejected refugees, in
1993 a bit less: 7186. Then the number of expulsed refugees rose
quickly: 13293 in 1994, 14509 in 1995 and 16841 in 1996. Removals
happen in three different ways. Expulsions, supervised return and
address control. Even after the 'Return Policy Report' under-
secretary Schmitz remains to think that the 'important principle
of the return policy is that refugees whose procedure have ended
are themselves responsible for their departure from the Nether-
lands. In relation to that, they are given a reasonable time to
leave the country on their own accord. The government does not
want to change that principle'. Schmitz sees address controls,
whereby at the last residential address is checked if somebody is
still living there, 'is still a meaningful and even necessary
means of supervising, even if these checks do not ascertain that
those concerned have actually left the country'.
Return Policy 1997
In the Return Report Schmitz sought an answer to the removal of reclined refugees in ROA-houses; the large groups of reclined refugees from Iran, Ethiopia and Somalia; and for the in future reclined refugees. 'Mobile assistance teams of the IND' should help out foreigners-services of the police, COA (central organisation for reception of asylum-seekers) and city councils. For large groups of to be removed refugees there would have to come a special project in cooperation with the ministry of De- velopment-cooperation. Finally the new coming refugees will have to be confronted with the option of return much more clearly than before.
(The ROA-regulation provided asylum-seekers with houses in cities and villages where they would await their decision. They were given minimal income support and Dutch lessons. January 1997 the ROA-regulation ended. Since then asylum-seekers have to await their decision in the central asylum-seekers centre (AZC's). According to Schmitz there is a large number of reclined refugees in the different centres for asylum-seekers and ROA-houses at the moment. This concerns about 7,500 people divided as followed (statistics of first of march 1997): 1250 from Iran, 1100 from former Yugoslavia, 650 from China, 500 from Somalia and 500 from Začre. Furthermore over 100 people from the following countries are concerned: Algeria, Armenia, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Syria and Turkey. Together these nationalities form 85% of all the removable refugees. According to calculations of the IND within one and a half year 10,000 people will be added to this, people who are now still in the procedure.
At the beginning of this year Schmitz came into trouble when a
number of cities refused to expel reclined refugees from their
ROA-houses. On a humanitarian level it is irresponsible to just
dump them on the street when people are not expulsable, so these
cities argued. They also repeatedly questioned if the procedures
were extensively used.
As has been pointed out, a number of cities had great difficulties to execute these senseless activities. In order to overrule them, Schmitz has drawn the coordination of expulsion from ROA-regula- tion even more to her department. In every IND-district there is a team 'supervision and return' in operation. These teams fulfil an important role in the execution of the plan of steps for ending ROA-provisions, especially by giving support in this area to the city involved. They also keep the contact with the foreigners- services of the police and the COA.
A more important role in ending the ROA-provision has been given to the removal-centre Ter Apel (dubbelop met laatste zin alinea). On january 22 1997 (TK 1996-1997, 19637, nr. 231) Schmitz reported an increase in the number of people that could be placed in remo- val centre Ter Apel. This concerns people that were told to leave the country and therefor had to leave their ROA-house. As of May 31 the capacity has risen from 100 to 300 people. Thus, Ter Apel has been given a more important role in the execution of the policy, aimed at ending of ROA-provisions for refugees who do not cooperate with their return.
From the list of removable refugees from the ROA-regulation app-
ears that most countries concerned are those with which the Minis-
try of Justice is attempting to establish projects for 'voluntary
return'. This they do in cooperation with the junction-group
Voluntary Return and the Ministry of Development-Cooperation. The
criticisms of the Ethiopian refugees on the interest-groups like
the Dutch Refugee Council (VVN) is striking. They reproach them
that they compromise themselves to the expulsion policy of the
government by cooperating with the junction-group Voluntary
Return. According to the Ethiopian Refugee Assembly in the
Netherlands (VEN) human rights in Ethiopia are still violated on a
Projects without the cooperation of the Ministry of Development-
Cooperation are established with (Northwest) Somalia and Sri
Lanka. With both countries there is an agreement about the return
of reclined refugees. On top of the normal IOM contribution the
Somalis get an extra $ 1200. The IOM will administer this amount
at location and will also control the expenditures. There is not
much time for deliberation. The Somalis concerned have to react to
the offer within one week. In the interpellation debate in the
Second Chamber of Parliament on 23 september 1997, Leoni Sipkes of
the GreenLeft especially had objections to the agreement with
Somaliland. "The under-secretary told us that the agreement of
return had been concluded fully and that she would start, from
this day, as she then formulated it, with the return of Somalis.
And all of a sudden a fax arrived from the Minister of Rehabilita-
tion of Somaliland, directed to the IOM. Consultation about return
will be postponed until at least january 1998... Then there is a
new fax, now to the Ministry of Justice and coming from the presi-
dent with the same contents. Postponing consultation until at
least january 1998 and in this fax there is also criticism on the
way the Netherlands operate. Among others because of the reception
of the delegation on a merely civil level, because the Netherlands
do not acknowledge Somaliland, and does not see the delegation of
ministers from Somaliland as ministers. ...Also in the fax, the
president shows his irritation about the fact that the Netherlands
have tried to expulse people without the consent of the authori-
ties. The president calls it a violation of the agreement. Fur-
thermore it becomes clear from the correspondence that the presi-
dent only wants to take back people who have already lived in
Somaliland, this means: not people who only have clan-relations
with Somaliland. Incidentally this is a problem which the UNHCR
has also pointed out". It seems that the project Somaliland is
turning out just as much a mess as the attempts to expulse Somalis
in june 1996. Any trust from the side of the reclined refugees can
hardly be expected.
With the 'voluntary return-projects' the IND hopes to be able to execute, in a gentle way, a large part of the expulsions now queuing up. In future the route of expulsion will be made an inte- gral part of the asylum procedure. They want to prevent that expulsion is only introduced in the final phase of the asylum procedure. Schmitz calls this the 'integral approach'. Immediately after the first negative decision to one's asylum request the option of 'return' should be introduced. Here too a measure is introduced where the carrot is used. The sooner someone chooses for return, the 'more facilities the offer for supportive measures will contain'. The existing IOM-provision remains the basis, but other 'return-promoting' projects are also thinkable. The Ministry of Justice has raised an extra 5 million guilders for this. Conse- quence of this approach is the new method of working for the IND and COA. Both services recently work with a (secret) plan of approach for removals. At the IND there is a project-coordinator Return, who is responsible for the project. The problem of return will be approached both regionally and nationally.