Asylum Procedure in the Netherlands

There is only one asylum status in the Netherlands.[1] There are, however, two different grounds on which asylum status may be issued (besides the grounds for family reunification). [2] These two grounds are 1. Refugee status under Article 1A of the 1951 Refugee Convention; 2. Subsidiary protection under Article 3 of the ECHR and Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive.[3] It should be noted that before 1 January 2014, two additional grounds (humanitarian grounds and categorical protection) existed on the basis of which the single asylum status could be granted. Both grounds have now been abolished by law.[4]

1- Report and Registration

To apply for asylum, there are several general steps.  The first step is registration. The asylum seeker who enters the Netherlands by land has to report to the Central Reception Centre (Centraal Opvanglocatie, COL) in Ter Apel (fingerprints, travel- and identity documents are examined). Asylum seekers from a non-Schengen country, who arrive in the Netherlands by plane or boat, are refused entry to the Netherlands and are detained. They can report to the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The Aliens Police will verify the applicant’s identity and register his/her personal details.

Reporting and registration procedure in the COL take three days. During the procedure the asylum seeker has to complete a form. A staff member of the Dutch Council for Refugees in the secure reception centre can help him/her with this. Fingerprints are taken and he or she is interviewed regarding his or her identity, family members, travel route and profession.

In a reporting interview (first interview) the asylum seeker will not be asked about the reasons of his/her escape to the Netherlands. If the UNHCR has acknowledged him/her as a refugee, he/she must mention this to the IND right away. This must be proven with documents. The IND will use this information when handling the asylum request. Data from Eurodac and the Visa Information System (VIS) are consulted.  From all this information the IND may conclude that, according to the Dublin Regulation, another member state is responsible for examining the asylum application. In case of a “hit” in Eurodac, the IND can already submit a request to another member state to assume responsibility for the asylum application under the Dublin Regulation. (For more details see below: five track policy)

2- Medical test

The applicant must undertake a tuberculosis (TB)[5], the medical staff takes an x-ray of the applicant’s lungs. If they have TB, they will receive medical treatment with medication. The asylum procedure will then start after the treatment of the disease. Asylum seekers from certain countries are not tested for TB.[6]

3- Rest and Preparation at the reception centre

Next step is the rest and preparation period during which the applicant (with the exception of Tracks 1 and 2 (see below: five track policy) is granted some days to cope with the stress of fleeing their country of origin and the journey to the Netherlands. ​At this stage, the applicant will be taken to another reception centre of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA). That asylum seekers’ centre is often near the office of the IND where he/she continues his/her asylum procedure. COA provides the care and guidance for asylum seekers in the Netherlands. The applicant will be provided with information about the asylum procedure by the Dutch Council for Refugees, will be assisted by a lawyer and an appointment will be made for him/her with a nurse for medical advice. The rest and preparation period take at least 6 days but after consulting their lawyer, asylum seeker can ask the IND to shorten this period if they wish.

During the rest and preparation period they are given:

  • Information about the asylum procedure;
  • Help from a lawyer;
  • A medical declaration for use during their asylum procedure.

Care and Guidance:

 While staying at the reception centre, a free medical examination is provided. During that examination, a nurse checks physical and mental health of the applicant. Applicant’s health can affect the interviews with the IND.

Furthermore, at the reception centre, the applicant also gets free help to prepare for the general asylum procedure. The VluchtelingenWerk Nederland (Dutch Council for Refugees) is an independent human rights organisation whose aim is to stand up for the rights of asylum seekers. The Dutch Council for Refugees provides information and explains the asylum procedure to the asylum seeker. It can also help the asylum seeker if there are any problems with other organisations. It works in close cooperation with the asylum seeker’s lawyer. The Dutch Council for Refugees takes no part in the decision about the asylum application. The applicants can discuss with the Dutch Council for Refugees or with their lawyer which documents they might retrieve from their country of origin to support their asylum application, identity, nationality, and travel route.

A lawyer will advise the applicant about telling their asylum story to the IND. This is free of charge and the Council for Legal Aid arranges a lawyer for the applicant. The IND will send a letter with the date the asylum seeker must be present at the IND office. The lawyer will assist the applicant during the asylum procedure.

4- General Asylum Procedure (AA)

Following the rest and preparation period, asylum seekers are channelled into the so-called general asylum procedure (Algemene asielprocedure) which is, as a rule, designed to last 8 working days (“short asylum procedure”). On the day of the appointment with the IND, asylum seekers go to the IND office. COA usually arranges transport to the IND office.

Day 1: initial interview

At this stage the official interview with an IND officer takes place about asylum seekers’ identity, nationality and their journey to the Netherlands. Documents provided by the asylum seeker and his/her story will be checked to see if they are genuine. The reasons why the asylum seekers are applying for asylum will be asked during the next interview, the detailed interview, with the IND officer (Day 3). An independent interpreter will be called in to translate everything that is being said during interviews with the IND, (also during the meetings with staff members of the Dutch Council for Refugees, and the lawyer.) A copy of the report of the first interview will be given to asylum seeker through his/her lawyer.

Day 2: preparation for the detailed interview

The results of the first interview will be discussed in a room at the IND office between the asylum seeker and his/her lawyer. An interpreter will also be available during this meeting to translate everything said between the asylum seeker and his/her lawyer. The lawyer will send a letter to the IND notifying them if there is anything missing from the report or if something has been recorded incorrectly. The lawyer will also prepare the asylum seeker for the second interview with the IND.

Day 3: derailed interview

During the detailed interview with an IND officer, asylum seeker must explain the reasons why they are applying for asylum. The asylum seeker must be detailed in telling what has happened to him/her and the reasons why they cannot expect any protection in their country of origin. Through the lawyer, a report of the detailed interview will be provided.

Day 4: discussion of the detailed interview

Asylum seeker and his/her lawyer have a talk at the IND office. The lawyer checks with the asylum seeker whether the report of the detailed interview is correct. The lawyer passes on errors and additions in a letter to the IND.

Day 5: intended decision

An IND staff member examines the interviews with the IND and the letters from the lawyer, after which the IND decides whether or not to grant a permit.

IND assesses asylum applications on the basis of:

  • the asylum seeker’s account (facts and credibility)
  • the security situation in the asylum seeker’s country of origin.

There are 3 possible decisions:

  1. The IND establishes that an asylum seeker needs protection: A temporary asylum residence permit is granted and this is stated in a formal decision that the lawyer will receive. A temporary asylum residence permit is valid for 5 years.
  2. The IND needs more time to make a good decision. The asylum application will no longer be examined in the short asylum procedure and will be dealt with in an Extended Asylum Procedure (VA).
  3. In the assessment of the IND, the conditions for an asylum residence permit are not met: The asylum seeker through his/her lawyer will receive a letter, which states that the IND plans to refuse the asylum application. This letter is referred to as an intended decision or voornemen. This letter also states the reasons for this intended refusal and explains its consequences for the asylum seeker. The lawyer will discuss this letter and its consequences with the asylum seeker.

Day 6: written response

Asylum seeker and his/her lawyer will discuss the intended decision of the IND and will prepare a written response to the decision. This is a letter in which the asylum seeker and his/her lawyer give their official response to the IND’s intended decision and they can state why they disagree with it.

Day 7 and 8: Decision

The IND will examine the written response to the intended decision provided by the asylum sekekr and his/her lawyer and reads their viewpoint. After that, the IND decides if the provisional decision must be changed. Once again there are three possibilities:

  1. After reading the written response, the IND considers that conditions for an asylum residence permit are fulfilled and asylum application will be granted.
  2. The IND needs more time to investigate the application and cannot make a decision on the asylum application within eight days. The IND will deal with the asylum application in the Extended Asylum Procedure. 
  3. In the assessment of the IND, the conditions for an asylum residence permit are not fulfilled. Separate information with a letter about the consequences of this refusal, the steps the asylum seeker can take and the possibilities for return are explained and provided to the lawyer. This decision also explains the reasons for the refusal.

Appeal:

If the IND does not grant the applicant asylum, he/she can appeal against this decision to the regional court. At the appeal stage of the asylum procedure asylum seekers continue to have access to free legal assistance. In the procedures of Track 4, as well as Tracks 1 and 2, this appeal should be submitted within one week after the negative decision. The appeal has automatic suspensive effect, except for cases falling in Tracks 1 and 2. This means that the asylum seeker can be expelled before the court’s decision. To prevent expulsion, the lawyer (or in theory the asylum seeker) should request a provisional measure to suspend removal pending the appeal. This must be done immediately after the rejection in order to prevent possible expulsion from the Netherlands. The applicant continues to have a right to accommodation during this appeal.

In the event of a well-founded appeal (positive), the court will annul the decision and send the case back to the IND. The court cannot grant a residence permit itself and therefore only checks whether the IND has done the work properly. The IND must then take a new decision taking into account that which the court has decided and considered. The new decision can therefore also be negative, after which an appeal can again be submitted to the court. If the appeal is well founded, the IND can also appeal itself if it does not agree with the ruling. Both the asylum seeker (if the appeal is declared unfounded (negative)) and the IND may lodge an appeal against the decision of the regional court to the Council of State (Afdeling Bestuursrechtspraak Raad van State). At this stage, the right to accommodation ends unless the Council of State has issued a provisional measure.[7]

5- after the general procedure

There are three situations after the general procedure:

1- A temporary asylum residence permit is granted: The refugee will move to another reception centre of COA, he/she is allowed to work. Depending on their situation, they may also bring over family members. Refugees have the right to a house in a municipality. COA will consult with the refugee as to which municipality he/she wishes to live in. The municipality looks for suitable accommodation for them. Staff members of the Dutch Council for Refugees can help the refugees arrange matters such as finding work or an education.

2- A temporary asylum residence permit is not granted: COA will transfer the applicant to another asylum seekers’ centre. Once there, the refused asylum seekers have to arrange their own return to their country of origin. They have 28 days to return and after these 28 days they no longer have a right to reception. In case of an unaccompanied minor foreign national who is denied to stay, they have a right to reception as long they are minor and their return has not been arranged yet. A forced return will happen if after 28 days the refused asylum seeker has not arranged his/her return. The Repatriation and Departure Service (DT&V) helps them to arrange their return. In addition, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) can help in such matters.

3- Extended asylum procedure (VA): The short asylum procedure may be extended by 6, 8 or 14 working days if more time is needed. If it becomes clear on the fourth day of the short asylum procedure that the IND will not be able to take a well-founded decision on the asylum application within these eight days, the application is further investigated in the “extended asylum procedure” (Verlengde asielprocedure). In this extended asylum procedure, the IND has to take a decision on the application within 6 months. This time limit can be extended by 9 months, and another 3 months. The IND is responsible for examining asylum applications, including the examination of the Dublin Regulation criteria during which the IND examines whether another member state is responsible for the application.

Five Track Policy

Since March 2016, the IND applies a ‘Five Tracks policy’,[8] whereby asylum seekers are channelled to a specific procedure track (spoor) depending on the circumstances of their case. In the first track, if the IND is of the opinion that the Dublin Regulation is applicable on the asylum application, the application is assessed in a Dublin Procedure. The asylum seeker is then not entitled to a rest and preparation period nor a medical examination.[9]

Applications from asylum seekers from a Safe Country of Origin or asylum seekers who already receive international protection in another member state are assessed in the second track procedure where the IND finds that it is not likely that these asylum requests will be complied with. The assessment of the application takes place in 8 steps within a maximum of 8 days; in practice, they are concluded in less than 8 days. The asylum seeker is not entitled to a rest and preparation period or a medical examination. [10]

Applications of asylum seekers, which are prima facie considered likely to be granted, will be assessed in the third track procedure. This procedure is also linked to Track 5. This procedure has not been applied in 2017.

Track 4 is the Regular Procedure of 8 days; with the possibility to extend this time limit by 6, 8 or 14 days.8 In case the application cannot be thoroughly assessed within the regular procedure there is a possibility of assessing the application in the Extended Procedure, within a deadline of 6 months.

Track 5 concerns asylum applications that could not be assessed in Track 3, due to the fact that nationality or identity documents have not been submitted. Like Track 3, Track 5 has not been applied in 2017.

Author: Shabnam Tautan


[1] For a definition of an asylum seeker and a refugee, see the previous article.

[2] Article 29 Aliens Act.

[3] The report of the AIDA project (Asylum Information Database), National Country Report, The Netherlands, 2014, coordinated by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles

[4] Law of 25 of November 2013, Publication of the State (Staatsblad) 2013, 478 and House of Representatives, Session year 2011–2012, 33 293, no. 2

[5] ​Tuberculosis is a contagious infection disease. The disease is caused by bacteria. The disease is widespread worldwide.

[6] for the list of the countries see: https://ind.nl/en/Forms/7644.pdf

[7] Danielle Zevenum et al. Dublin II, National asylum procedure in the Netherlands, (Dublin transnational project), 2012, 11.

[8] Decree WBV 2016/4 of 26 February 2016 amending the Aliens Circular 2000, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/2fp4K0z

[9] Article 3.109c Aliens Decree. 

[10] Article 3.109ca Aliens Decree. 

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