Building Knowledge for a Concerted and Sustainable Approach to Refugee Resettlement in the EU and its Member States

Policy statements and debates


Netherlands: Parliamentary Debate (2011)

Questions and Answers in Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer der Staten- Generaal)

The segments below are summarily translated by our Dutch Country Collaborator for the Netherlands, Fenya Fischler. The sources (in Dutch) are linked below each item.

Migratiebeleid, Verslag van een Algemeen Overleg, 20 Oktober 2011

Migration policy question and answer session, Minister Leers answers on the strategic use of resettlement

Mrs Van Nieuwenhuizen-Wijbenga(VVD: People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy):

  • Requests information concerning the strategic use of resettlement and whether this will be used in the resettlement of Eritrean refugees from Eastern Sudan. Also asks what the benefits are of the strategic use of resettlement. The VVD is a strong supporter of Regional Protection Programmes.

Minister Leers (Minister for Immigration & Asylum Affairs since 2010, Christian Democratic Appeal)

  • The Netherlands and this cabinet want to maintain the resettlement of refugees. This means that we will maintain our offer to resettle 500 refugees for four years. This amounts to 2000 refugees, in addition to the other applications for asylum that are received. We are aiming to further flesh out the strategic use of resettlement. For example, the Netherlands has participated in the Resettlement in Eastern Sudan and attempt to persuade the Sudanese authorities to locally integrate Eritrean refugees, who have been in Eastern Sudan for a long time. We saw the same situation in relation to the refugees in Libya, who were in a really difficult situation in a refugee camp and had nowhere else to go. We then looked whether they could be relocated to a better place in the framework of our programme. The Netherlands will strongly emphasize the use of strategic resettlement in the EU. We are open to that. European or Dutch resettlement does not stand alone, but must be connected to other durable solutions, local integration, and durable return.
  • Response to a question about the amount/content of communication between the ministers and UNHCR: “I have a lot of contact with UNHCR about individual cases and about the general area of asylum and migration policy, more specifically concerning resettlement and the strengthening of refugee protection.

JBZ-Raad, Verslag van een Algemeen Overleg, 14 Juli 2011

Justice and Home Affairs, Report of a general consultation

 Mr Spekman (PvdA):

Encourages the Minister to support a European resettlement policy for vulnerable refugees. Netherlands makes a modest contribution, but he thinks that all European countries should participate in resettlement, pro rata to existing population and existing migration pressure. The Eastern-European countries should also contribute.  

Minister Leers:

States that he will bring the importance of resettlement to the attention of non-resettlement countries. We want to demonstrate to all non-resettlement countries what the Netherlands do, so they can learn about our approach. Agrees with Mr Spekman that other countries must be made aware of their responsibility concerning the resettlement of refugees.

Schriftelijke antwoorden van de Minister voor Immigratie en Asiel op vragen gesteld in de eerste termijn van de behandeling van de begroting van het ministerie van Justitie voor het jaar 2011, onderdeel vreemdelingenzaken.

Written answers of the Minister for Immigration and Asylum to questions relating to the budget of the Ministry of Justice for 2011, foreign affairs. P.4 question concerning the new reception procedure.

Question: Why is the Minister cancelling the preparatory period with the COA for resettled refugees? Is this a simple austerity measure?

Answer: The proposed measure to place resettled refugees directly in municipalities has as its primary objective that these refugees can immediately start participating to the maximum extent in society. It is already clear before their arrival that they will receive a residence permit in the Netherlands and there is no reason not to provide housing in the municipalities to offer them a good start there. I am convinced that this will be positive for a rapid integration and participation. In addition important savings will be made within the reception budget.

28 April 2011, Antwoord op schriftelijke Kamervragen met kenmerk 2011Z06464

Parliamentary Question concerning the request to resettle Eritrean refugees in North-Africa in Europe. Answer by the Minister for Immigration and Asylum G.B.M. Leers

Question: Are the Netherlands planning to comply with the request of Commissioner Malmström to take in Eritrean refugees residing in North Africa in the European Union?

Answer: Only to the extent that this fits within the Dutch resettlement quota. The emphasis must be placed on reception within the region and where possible, return.

6 Januari 2010, Beantwoording Kamervragen van het lid Van Velzen over uitgenodigde vluchtelingen, Ministerie van Justitie

Q&A Ministry of Justice concerning the selection of invited refugees

UNHCR selects refugees who are eligible for resettlement. The refugees that are considered by the Dutch authorities during resettlement missions have been suggested to the Netherlands by UNHCR.

UNHCR and IND are as careful as possible in the selection of invited refugees. UNHCR suggests refugees which it feels are eligible for resettlement. During a resettlement mission the refugee is interviewed by representatives of IND, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the COA and is examined by a doctor from the Medical Advice Breau. The IND also reviews whether the refugees conform with the admission grounds set out in the Aliens Act (art 29a, b and c). Investigations are also made relating to the exclusion clauses, such as 1F of the Refugee Convention, criminal antecedents and/or threats to public order in the Netherlands.

On the basis of these interviews and information provided by UNHCR individual cases are assessed to establish whether the refugee will be accepted for resettlement in the Netherlands.

Question: Is it possible that a someone who is unable to demonstrate that they belong to a specific vulnerable group, can still be invited to resettle in the Netherlands? If so, is this desirable?

Answer:Refugees may be invited for resettlement in the Netherlands for different reasons. For the Dutch government the protection need of the individual refugee is the main concern. Furthermore there should ben o other durable solution (return or local integration) available for that refugee.

Question: Do you agree that invited refugees should minimally comply with the same criteria for refugee status as those that aliens who are seeking asylum in the Netherlands? Does this happen already, if not, why not?

Answer: Invited refugees are admitted on the same grounds as aliens who seek asylum in the Netherlands. Admission is granted on grounds a, b, or c of the Aliens Act 2000.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Resources from Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)

Again, the segment below has been summarily translated by our Dutch Country Collaborator for the Netherlands, Fenya Fischler. The source (in Dutch) is linked below.

Vluchtelingenbeleid, Brief van de Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken, 23 November 1999

Refugee Policy, Letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, November 1999. Background information on resettlement quota policy since 1984 and changes until 2001

  • The quota policy was first put into practice on 1 January 1984 and incrased on 1 January 1987 at the request of UNHCR from 250 to maximum 500 resettled refugees.
  • Due to the increase in the number of asylum applications and asylum seekers given permission to remain in the Netherlands etc the quota policy should be revisited in this light. However, we do not wish to abolish the resettlement quota policy. The Netherlands wishes to continue showing solidarity to those countries who are forced to receive large amounts of refugees and displaced persons.
  • However the government sees reasons to terminate the selection of refugees in group on the spot (which was what took place until now). From now on the quota will only be for individually nominated refugees, who will be nominated by the UNHCR.
  • The Dutch assessment framework will consist of the Refugee Convention, the Aliens Act, the general official reports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the policy of the Secretary of State for Justice concerning the country of origin of the refugee.
  • The quota will remain at 500 persons per year. This will apply for the years 1999, 2000 and 2001. In total this will be 1500 refugees. If more refugees are invited one year, the subsequent numbers can be adjusted. The quota will be reviewed after this time period.
  • Within the quota there is a subquota of 3 years of 100 persons for disabled refugees, who cannot be further treated in the country where they are other elsewhere in the region. This implements the “Twenty or more” plan of UNHCR.
  • The only difference in treatment between quota refugees and other status holders will henceforth only be the manner of transfer. For quota refugees the Netherlands will pay for the costs of transfer. In the further processes there will no longer be a distinction between manner of arrival/transfer.
  • Family members will henceforth form part of the quota that is financed by the Netherlands.
  • The tasks and responsibilities concerning the first reception of resettled refugees will be transferred to the Secretary of State for Justice. The implementation of reception will further be provided by the COA.
  • The Secretary of State for Justice will decide about individual requests on the advice of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Ministry of Justice

The segment below has been summarily translated by our Dutch Country Collaborator for the Netherlands, Fenya Fischler. The source (in Dutch) is linked below.

Directoraat-Generaal Wetgeving, Internationale Aangelegenheden en Vreemdelingenzaken, Beleidskader hervestiging 2008-2011

Dutch Resettlement Policy Framework 2008-2011

Background resettlement policy

  • The Dutch government considers her support to UNHCR in relation to resettlement indispensable in demonstrating solidarity with countries who are forced to accept large numbers of refugees and as part of the policy concerning the strengthening of protection of refugees in the region.
  • The Netherlands has for the past year used an annual quota of 500 refugees per year on average.

Principles of the resettlement policy for the period 2008 – 2011

  • In the Coalition Agreement it was established that the quota for resettled refugees would be set down after 2007 at 500 persons on average. The government intended to use a term of 4 years, which constitutes 2000 resettled refugees for the period 2008 – 2011.
  • The coalition agreement also sets out that the Cabinet will ensure that the quota is fully met.
  • The protection need of the refugees eligible for resettlement will be a guiding principle
  • The policy that has been put in motion in recent years will be followed in general terms


  • The scope of the quota will consist of 500 refugees. For the next 4 years this means 2000 resettled refugees: an amount which may be met in a flexible way within the specific time period.
  • In the past under-utilization of the quota has taken place, but since 2005 this is no longer the case. This year (2007) also it looks like the quota will be fully met.
  • Per year 30 places of the quota are reserved for “medical cases”. When a refugee is selected on medical grounds then whether or not the necessary treatment is available in the country of residence is a central consideration. In addition the treatment must lead to an essential improvement of the health situation.
  • The Netherlands prefer to assess these medical cases during resettlement mission, because the individual can be medically assessed and the most up-to-date picture of their medical situation can be established.
  • When UNHCR appeals to the Netherlands for the resettlement of a group of refugees in very urgent (political) situations at the end of a resettlement period, the government will decide ad hoc whether the quota will be exceeded.
  • The government will continue to make efforts to meet the quota of 500/year.
  • The high percentage of rejections in the past is due to 1) lack of information or inaccuracies in information in UNHCR dossiers 2) the temporary cancellation of resettlement missions (1999 - 2005) and non-compliance with the asylum grounds in the Aliens Act.

Misuse and fraude in family reunification/creation of resettled refugees

  • A large part of the quota is met through unforeseen family reunification/creation. In 33% of the cases within the quota family reunification is used at the moment.
  • I suggest that the right to invite family members within the quota with a right to financial assistance under the quota be limited to those family members who are known to the IND at the time of selection.
  • In the new situation, where an unknown family member of the main refugee comes forward within the 3 month period after his/her selection the same procedure will be used as that for family members of asylum permit holders who have spontaneously travelled to the Netherlands. This means that travel and documents will have to be paid by the refugees themselves.
  • The usual support given to resettled refugees will not be applicable to these refugees either. The family member him/herself must apply for a permit.
  • The family member who was not known at the time of selection does as such not fall within the quota.
  • The main starting point will be the declarations made to the IND by refugees at the time of selection about their family members. Those who are not mentioned, will not be invited to join the refugee.
  • A reduction in family reunification cases where family members were unknown at the time of selection is expected as a result of this new rule.

Resettlement missions and dossier selection

  • The Netherlands will carry out a number of resettlement missions per year to UNHCR field offices. The destination will be established in collaboration with UNHCR.
  • Participants to the missions are IND-resettlement matters, Bureau Medische Advisering, COA and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • The Netherlands will carry out at least one mission per year to a country with which the Netherlands has a development cooperation relationship.
  • The Netherlands can also be lead by strategic choices in its choice of destinations, in the framework of the improvement of protection in the region. Resettlement can also be a way to resolve a political deadlock.
  • Dossier selection will also take place on the basis of nominations by UNHCR field offices and “emergency cases” by the UNHCR office in Geneva.

Resettlement criteria

  • The protection need of the individual refugee is the most important consideration for the Dutch government.
  • To establish whether resettlement will take place an assessment will be made on the basis of UNHCR nominations together with Dutch asylum policy. The latter includes the Refugee Convention (incl art 1F), the individual protection grounds as set down in art 29, first section, (a)(b) and (c) of the Aliens Act, the general official reports from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and my policy concerning the country of origin of the refugee.
  • The reception by the COA at one location (Amersfoort) will continue.
  • The Cultural Orientation programme will be maintained. 

European Initiatives

  • The Netherlands will continue to try and motivate other countries to contribute to durable solutions for the worldwide solutions as resettlement partners of UNHCR. The Dutch Government will also strive towards a European resettlement policy.
  • At the moment the Netherlands is working on a pilot mission together with the Czech Republic, Romania and Belgium to show the process of resettlement to these countries.
  • The Netherlands strives for extra financial support for its resettlement policy by making use of the European Refugee Fund.


Central Body for Reception of Asylum Seekers

Resources from Dutch Central Body for Reception of Asylum Seekers (Centraal Orgaan Opvang asielzoekers)

Again, the segment below has been summarily translated by our Dutch Country Collaborator for the Netherlands, Fenya Fischler. The source (in English and in Dutch) is linked below.

COA in beeld, Jaargang 5, Nr 1, Maart 2011

Information on p.3 about resettlement and the new reception procedure since 2011

  • Annually on average 500 refugees are transferred to the Netherlands at the invitation of the Dutch Government.
  • Since 1 January 2011 these refugees are placed in their future home in the municipalities immediately after arrival in the Netherlands.
  • Before they were received and supported by the COA from 4-6 months in the central reception Amersfoort
  • Municipalities now provide the facilities for the refugees, such as education, doctors and social support.
  • The knowledge and expertise of the COA is now used in other ways. The training resettled refugees receive before transfer to the Netherlands has been extended. In addition the knowledge of COA about resettled refugees is now shared in different ways with the municipalities.
  • In 2011 ten workshops are organised by COA for municipalities which are interested in received resettled refugees. In addition the COA is establishing a knowledge center where municipalities can find answers to their questions. These activities are co-financed by the European Refugee Fund.
  • The COA develops a transfer dossier in collaboration with the municipalities. This dossier will include level of education, skills etc. On the basis of these dossiers the relevant employers etc will be contacted and the necessary support can be assessed.
  • Refugees are usually placed in the municipalities in group of approximately 20 persons. This way they can offer each other support and it is practical for the municipalities to arrange things for families of refugees.
  • This is also a way for municipalities to fulfil their duty to house a number of “new Dutch” annually.
  • After selection the COA offers three cultural orientation training of each 6-7 half days. During the training refugees receive general information about life in the Netherlands, information about where they will be placed and specific information about their home and environment.
  • There has been a change in the type of refugees that are being resettled. Before these were mostly refugees who has spent years in refugee camps. Now resettled refugees are generally from urban areas.
  • In 2011 there are  missions and trainings in Kenya, Nepal, Lebanon, Sudan and Thailand.

Netherlands snapshot

Size: 41,526 km2

Population: 16.4 million

Year of EU Entry: 1952

In the Schengen Area: Yes

Protection Status Granted: 6,828 (2011)

Resettlement Scheme: Programme (1984)

Resettlement Quota: 2000 refugees/4 years

Resettled Refugees: 556 (2011)

Source: The information about the size, population, in the Schengen area, and year of EU entry is taken from