Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Inhumane immigration policies

(Thanks to Frits for the tips!)

According to Minister Verdonk for Integration and Immigration, some 200 children born to Dutch mothers do not qualify to be Dutch citizens. She bases this on an old (now defunct) law dating back to 1985, which stated that only children born to a Dutch father can become Dutch automatically. Verdonk argues that there was already a three year ‘transition period’ in which people born to Dutch mothers before 1985 could still apply for citizenship.

Many of these children were feel as Netherlander as anyone else. The lawyer representing the applicants argues that the law is discriminatory, and that many countries like the UK and Hungary have adopted measures to prevent this kind of drastic results from happening. Even when there was a transition period, many whose citizenship status is affected did not know or were unable to know about the change in law.

In other news, from research done by a popular newspaper, as many as three quarters of immigration cases decisions were reversed by immigration courts because Minister Verdonk for Immigration and the Immigration Service (IND) acted improperly in reaching their decisions. The research was based on 120 cases end of February to mid July. The Supreme Court often upholds the decisions of the immigration courts. To many judges, the working methods of the Minister and IND are questionable, especially how they reject crucial evidence supplied by the applicants which have heavy weights in supporting their requests to stay in the Netherlands.

An example of this improper decision making: an underage Guinean boy who worked lived in the streets for many years was arrested by police and put in prison without reason. There, he underwent serious abuse, resulting in many broken bones and scars. He escaped to the Netherlands and subsequently applied for asylum, only to have it rejected by Minister Verdonk because the abuse was not serious enough. To lawyer of the Minister argues that ‘abuse’ means rape and torture. Further, the IND does not believe this story, because the boy has no papers to prove it. >>The court rejected Verdonk’s decision.

Another example: a seventeen year old Iranian refuses to marry a 51 year Iranian government official, and as a result endures undergoes serious threats to her life and family from hired goons. She eventually escapes to the Netherlands and applies for asylum, only to have it rejected because, again, the IND does not believe the story. She supplies evidence of her brother who suddenly disappeared, and the threats to the father who was of a different political background. Even family members and friends wrote letters to serve as evidence. All these were rejected as “unreliable”. Further, the admittance of evidence to support the applicant’s case were rejected on procedural grounds. >>Immigration court reverses decision. In the Ayaan Hirsi Ali case, letters from family members and friends were deemed as enough to make a positive decision.

Yet another example of Minister Verdonk’s inhumane application of asylum laws: Applicant an Angolan woman with six children. Her husband was a captain at the security forces of the government, but at the same time active member of the Unita rebel movement. He disappeared under suspicious circumstances. The woman flees the country out of fear of being an ‘accomplice’, and applies for asylum in the Netherlands. She does this under the ground of having suffered trauma as a result of the events back home.

Minister Verdonk refuses asylum, because the facts were not believable enough, and that the woman would not be under risk if deported back to Angola. She has not suffered enough to qualify for traumatic asylum. >>Court rejects Verdonk’s arguments. As a single parent with six underage children, the applicant is at great risk to her life and security in politically unstable Angola. Trauma does not have to be proven medically; the violent death of her husband and the father of the children, together with the fleeing is enough.

To be fair, Professor of immigration affairs, Heinrich Winter says that the IND does not have an easy task, since it is dealing with an enormous backlog of cases and immigration reform measures that were introduced in 2001. But he argues that with asylum cases you cannot simply rigidly apply the rules, but must take into account the “nuance” and the human factor which matter most.

“People who flee do not always carry extensive documentation with them. And you cannot expect that the refugees always trust the Dutch government immediately, but in the [Dutch] immigration policy it is [expected that people trust the government]. People have been affected in their private lives. Sometimes they have been tortured or raped, and they must immediately entrust their story to a Dutch civil servant, while they often have had very bad experiences with the authorities in their own country, certainly with the police.

Further, some refugees refrain [from giving] information in order to protect others, such as family members in their homeland. The Dutch government says that the information is safe with it, but in the treatment of Congolese and Syrian asylum seekers it appears that that is not always so.”

Apparently, Verdonk has been warned as many as 10 times by the European Court of Justice (the highest court of appeal in the European Union) for her improper handling of asylum cases. The Court decided that the Netherlands had violated human rights by its failure to investigate serious abuses and dangers that pose threats to the asylum seekers’ lives.

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