The Dutch state was wrong to restrict family reunification of asylum seekers and must amend its policy to allow immediate safe passage for family members of those granted asylum within the country, a Dutch court ruled on Monday.
A judge in Haarlem issued a preliminary injunction against the government’s practice of temporarily limiting the number of asylum seekers’ family members permitted to enter the Netherlands, claiming the measure had no legal basis and, in fact, contravened Dutch asylum laws and two provisions of the European Family Reunification Directive.
The ruling came in the case of 47-year old Syrian national, Fakhria Al Mullaabid, a refugee who has been granted a residency permit in the Netherlands; she appealed against the government’s decision to delay permitting the arrival of her six children currently staying in a Sudanese refugee camp for up to six months, unless they could find suitable accommodation in the Netherlands ahead of time.
The Dutch coalition government had introduced the six-month restriction on the entry of family members of asylum seekers in an attempt to ease constraints on the asylum process and limit the number of arrivals into the country. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND), which reports to State Secretary Eric van der Burg, announced the delay to family reunification in August, admitting at the time that the “painful measure was not taken lightly.”
However, the court in Haarlem ruled the move unlawful and insisted that the claimant’s family members be allowed to enter the country with temporary residence permits within 24 hours, a decision the Dutch immigration office has since said will be respected.
Dutch conservatives have criticized the decision, with Party for Freedom (PVV) Chairman Geert Wilders accusing liberal judges of giving “presents to asylum seekers” and calling the ruling “insane.”
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Asylum cases in the Netherlands have skyrocketed this year, giving the Dutch government a headache over how best to respond to the influx.
The IND revealed last month that it expected the number of applications filed by the end of the year to reach between 48,200 and 55,700.
The rise in the number of applications has had a domino effect on the processing time of applications, with a statement from the IND in November explaining:
“A similar number of new asylum applications will be taken into account next year, further increasing the number of decisions to be made. The legal decision period has recently been temporarily extended from 6 to 15 months.”
Similar to other European nations, including the United Kingdom, asylum seekers in the Netherlands have been housed in alternative accommodation due to a shortage of social housing, including on board 5-star cruise ships in the port of Rotterdam, sparking fury as the cost of living for Dutch citizens spiked by 17.1 percent.
“Everything is free for asylum seekers. Nice hot food, heating, care. All for nothing on luxury cruise ships,” Wilders commented at the time the story broke.
“While our own people cannot pay their energy bills, and many elderly people are in diapers due to a lack of healthcare staff,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Dutch state has resorted to financial incentives for municipalities willing to provide accommodation for more asylum seekers. It recently passed a law giving the government power to force regions to take more refugees if they won’t cooperate willingly, a measure that has caused a deep divide within Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD party.