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Netherlands: Grounds for Revoking Asylum Residence Permits Broadened

(June 30, 2016) In a letter of May 25, 2016, to the Lower House (Tweede Kamer) of the Dutch Parliament, K.H.D.M. Dijkhoff, the Minister for Migration, indicated that the policy on revocation or refusal of an asylum residence permit will be made more stringent. Dijkhoff stated, “[w]hen people commit serious crimes that severely impact the life of victims, there must be consequences for their asylum residence permit.”  Under the changed rules, a permit can be revoked or refused because of the asylum seeker having a suspended prison sentence or community service order, not just a non-suspended prison sentence.  (Asylum Residence Permits Revoked or Refused also in Case of Suspended Sentences or Community Service Orders, Ministry of Security and Justice website (June 2, 2016); Letter from K.H.D.M. Dijkhoff to Tweede Kamer, Betrekken van voorwaardelijke vrijheidsstraffen bij weigeren of intrekken verblijfsvergunning asiel [Refusing or Withdrawing Asylee Residence Permits Due to Suspended Prison Sentences] (May 25, 2016), Government of the Netherlands website (click on download icon).)

Dutch policy towards asylum seekers and permit holders who have committed serious crimes had already been tightened in February 2016, with the prescription that “an asylum residence permit could be refused or revoked when someone has been irrevocably sentenced to a prison sentence of at least six or ten months, depending on the extent of [asylum] protection that person is receiving.” (Asylum Residence Permits Revoked or Refused also in Case of Suspended Sentences or Community Service Orders, supra.)  Prior to the February revision, the basis for possible refusal or revocation had been a prison sentence of at least 18 or 24 months.  (Id.)  These changes were retroactive to November 25, 2015.  (Vreemdelingcirculaire 2000 (C) [Aliens Circular 2000 (C)] (as last amended effective Apr. 1, 2016), OVERHEID.NL.)

Under the policy announced in May, “suspended sentences will also count in case of serious offences that severely affect the victims and society. This pertains to sex offences, violent offences, drug offences, human trafficking, and terrorist crimes.  Community service orders will also count.”  (Asylum Residence Permits Revoked or Refused also in Case of Suspended Sentences or Community Service Orders, supra.)  Whether the abovementioned criterion of a six to ten months’ prison sentence is met in the case of community service imposed as punishment by a court will be based on the prison sentence a person would receive from the court if the person fails to fulfill the community service order.  Every two hours of community service is considered equal to one day of a prison sentence.  (Id.; Letter from K.H.D.M. Dijkhoff to Tweede Kamer, supra.)  If a measure to reform conduct has been imposed on a juvenile by the court as an alternative to juvenile detention, the above assessment is based on the duration of the alternative measure set by the court if the convicted person does not cooperate in implementing the measure.  (Letter from K.H.D.M. Dijkhoff to Tweede Kamer, supra.)

In his May letter to the Dutch House of Representatives, Minister Dijkhoff took note of a recent amendment to German law refusing or withdrawing an asylum residence permit in connection with suspended sentences for certain types of offenses. Nevertheless, a footnote to this comment points out, a suspended prison sentence does not always lead to exclusion from refugee status in Germany; it depends on a number of categories of offenses named in the newly amended law and further requires that the offense was committed using violence, threats or deceit.  In addition, the sentence must be a term of imprisonment or youth custody of at least one year, and whether or not the punishment is suspended is unimportant.  (Id.)