Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Asylum policy of the Netherlands

Two weeks after the Ayaan Hirsi Ali affair it seems like the media storm has finally died down. It was a revealing incident with stubborn politicians, mudslinging and late night parliamentarian debates. It revealed that law cannot be applied with a 'one-size-fits-all' attitude, and further exposed the hypocrisy of the immigration and asylum policy of the Netherlands.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a powerful woman, one of the most influential of our time, according to Time. So she can count on powerful friends and influence. She will, however and whatever it takes, get her citizenship back.

But that is not the case with tens of thousands of asylum seekers. Their fates are unknown and stories unheard. But like Ayaan they arrive in the Netherlands to escape form prosecution, poverty, or the worst excesses of human wrongs. They sought here, in the land of the free, the liberals, and the land of tolerance, the land where the likes of Descarte and Spinoza sheltered, a new life and new hope. Instead many have been treated like criminals, locked up in prison cells, forced into hidding, or live a life of uncertainty at deportation centres around the country as the immigration bureaucracy decide their destinies.

Thousands of asylum seekers have been sent home to places which are simply unsuitable or dangerous for their wellbeings. Tens of thousands more have been classified as 'processed out' (uitgeprocedeerde), and are waiting for the day when immigration officials come knock on their doors.

Today on the radio a twenty-five Chinese mother of two, who has been here for the last ten years, was interviewed. She was recently told that she can no longer stay in the country, even though her children were born here and are fully integrated in society. The Chinese government will not accept her, because she has no passport (frankly, also because she's of no benefit to China). Her story is like many others: depressing, and made worse by the treatment of the immigration service and government bureaucracy.

In the coming period I hope to focus some attention on this. Beginning first with the prison boat (bajesboot) Bibby Stockholm

  • Thanks to Frits for providing me with lots of useful information to make this possible!

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