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Van der Laan urges 'lighter' approach to refugees caught in deportation trap

Amsterdam’s mayor has called for a more flexible approach to be taken towards asylum seekers who refuse to return to their home country.

Refugees pitched camp outside the Ter Apel detention centre during the summer.Eberhard van der Laan was speaking after a visit to a refugee camp in Osdorp, on the western fringe of the city, where around 40 Somalians have spent the last four weeks living in tents.

The government’s policy is that it will only find accommodation for the asylum seekers if they agree to return home, but Van der Laan says he wants to find a solution before the winter sets in.

Last winter a number of encampments were set up outside detention centres, including Ter Apel in Groningen province, by Somali refugees who refused to be deported.

The courts have backed their claim that their home country is too dangerous to return to, but the government is refusing to provide for them, leaving them stateless and effectively in limbo.

Speaking at a round-table discussion in Parliament, Van der Laan said he wanted a “lighter criterium” for asylum seekers who were left in limbo by the deportation process – unwanted in the Netherlands but unable to return home.

The mayor insists he will defend the right of people to protest in the city, but not at the expense of security in the camp or for those living nearby.

The camp in Osdorp has raised concerns because local residents have reported seeing two children among the group. The city has made it clear it will clear the camp if it finds evidence that children are sleeping rough.

Representatives of the group say the two children are living with their family in the camp by day but spend the nights with relatives.

The issue of dealing with asylum seekers who have run out of legal options has been a running sore in Dutch politics for years, with Mark Rutte’s previous right-wing coalition taking a hard line and immigration minister Gerd Leers facing opposition from within his own Christian Democrat party.

In August around 100 Somali refugees spent three days camped outside the headquarters of the Dutch immigration service (IND) in Den Bosch to protest against conditions in their detention centre in North Brabant.

After the September election Parliament voted for a temporary amnesty for children facing deportation while coalition formation talks between Rutte’s Liberal Party (VVD) and the Labour Party (PvdA) were ongoing.

Labour leader Diederik Samsom has said he will raise the issue during the coalition talks with a view to securing a long-term solution.

Source: De Volkskrant: Van der Laan: andere aanpak asielzoekers op straat