Dutch immigration service sounds alarm on rapidly rising asylum backlog days before election

FILE - Hundreds of migrants prepared to spend the night outside an overcrowded asylum seeker center in Ter Apel, northern Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

Just days before the Dutch electorate heads to the polls, the country’s immigration service has announced the backlog for unprocessed asylum seekers is continuing to grow at a rapid speed and is pessimistic about its ability to handle another wave of applications expected next year.

New figures from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) revealed that over 42,000 asylum seekers resident in the Netherlands are awaiting a decision on their asylum application, and the average waiting time for applications to be processed has exceeded a year.

“The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) processes more applications than the organization is designed to handle, and the waiting time for applicants has been increasing for a long time. In the general asylum procedure, applicants now wait an average of more than a year for the IND to make a decision,” the service said alongside the figures.

On top of the current backlog, a further 30,000 first-time applications were filed this year up to Nov. 1, with a further 10,000 associated family member applications for consideration, making it impossible for the service to get up to speed.

The IND warned that the current asylum crisis is expected to worsen next year.

“For next year, the forecast for the total number of asylum applications and follow-up travelers is between 49,000 and 76,000. The IND expects to be able to process around 47,000 asylum and reunification applications in 2024. And so the pressure on the IND remains high, and the waiting time for applicants will continue to increase,” it said.

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The service noted that a decision by the Dutch parliament to abolish written hearings for certain nationalities, such as Syrians, has contributed to the backlog. Previously, Syrian nationals were able to enjoy expedited proceedings based on a questionnaire and weren’t necessarily required to attend a full immigration hearing.

However, this was scrapped back in September over fears that such a move would entice more asylum seekers to choose the Netherlands over other EU member states where applications may be more extensive.

While waiting for a decision, asylum seekers are accommodated and cared for by the state at considerable expense to the taxpayer.

Successful applicants are often granted subsidized housing, while those rejected are, in theory, ordered to leave Dutch territory. However, this has proven to be far more difficult to enforce in practice.

The issue for any new Dutch government doesn’t just stop at the backlog. There is a critical housing crisis in the country. Thousands of approved asylum seekers thus remain housed in refugee centers, and because accommodation services are saturated, there is nowhere to move them to.

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Of the 32,000 migrants issued with residency permits so far this year, just 10,000 have been relocated to private housing, with the remainder still living in state-run asylum centers.

The Dutch state is expected to have to find homes for a further 18,000 in the first half of 2024, creating a significant problem for the new administration.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government collapsed due to disagreements over asylum and immigration policy as coalition parties drew red lines on how to handle the ongoing crisis.

On the basis of these figures by the IND, it would appear the next Dutch leader could also struggle to reach a consensus on how to move forward in a sensible and sustainable fashion.

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