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Netherlands: List of Safe Countries of Origin for Asylum Purposes Expanded

(Feb. 12, 2016) On February 9, 2016, the State Secretary for Security and Justice of the Netherlands, Klaas Dijkhoff, announced that he will add six jurisdictions to the country’s list of safe countries of origin; persons from countries on this list are deemed presumptively ineligible for asylum. The new additions are Ghana, India, Jamaica, Morocco, Mongolia, and Senegal, although Morocco and Senegal are noted as not being safe countries of origin for LGBT individuals. (Dutch State Secretary to Add to List of Safe Countries of Origin, GOVERNMENT.NL (Feb. 9, 2016).)

The countries will be added to the list through an amendment to Annex 13 of the Alien Regulations, and “[t]his will then come into force one day after publication in the Government Gazette.” (Minister for Migration, K.H.D.M. Dijkhoff, to the President of the House of Representatives (Feb. 9, 2016) (Letter of Feb. 9, 2016), GOVERNMENT.NL  (click on Expansion of National List of Safe Countries of Origin to access PDF document); Vreemdelingen Voorschrift 2000 [Alien Regulations 2000] (Dec. 18, 2000, in force on Apr. 1, 2001, as amended), Annex 13, OVERHEID.NL.)

Priority is already given to handling the applications of asylum seekers from safe countries of origin, but as of March 1, 2016, those applications will be subject to an accelerated procedure consisting of a single hearing, and they “will be rejected as manifestly unfounded.” (Dutch State Secretary to Add to List of Safe Countries of Origin, supra.)  While those turned down for asylum will be given the opportunity to show why in their particular case their country may be unsafe, they “will have to do more to make a plausible case for needing protection.”  (Id.)  Asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected will no longer be entitled to housing and may not wait for the outcome of their appeal, but must leave the Netherlands immediately.  (Id.)

Safe Country of Origin Concept

A country is deemed a safe country of origin “if it is safe enough to return to,” i.e., “if it does not carry out persecution on the grounds of race or religion, or apply torture or inhumane treatment.” (Id; What Is the List of Safe Countries of Origin?, GOVERNMENT.NL (last visited Feb. 10, 2016).) The safe country list is not fixed; depending on the safety situation there, a country can be added or removed. (What Is the List of Safe Countries of Origin?, supra.)  Safe country concepts are being used in national asylum procedures by European Member States pursuant to the implementation of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive.  (STEVEN AMMERAAL, FRANK BROEKHOF, & ANGELINA VAN KAMPEN, COUNTRY REPORT: THE NETHERLANDS 9 (Nov. 2015), AIDA [Asylum Information Database].)

Article 37 of the EU Directive states that Member States “may retain or introduce legislation that allows, in accordance with Annex I [on designation of safe countries of origin], for the national designation of safe countries of origin for the purposes of examining applications for international protection.” (Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on Common Procedures for Granting and Withdrawing International Protection (Recast) (Asylum Procedures Directive), 2013 O.J. (L/180) 60, EUR-LEX.) Article 36 of the Directive has a definition of safe country of origin.  (Id.)

The Dutch List

The Dutch safe country of origin list was formulated on November 3, 2015, with a view to speeding up the processing of asylum applications from the West Balkan countries. Countries that are already on the list, therefore, include Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, as well as other countries in Europe, Oceania, and America.  (State Secretary for Security and Justice, K.H.D.M. Dijkhoff, to the President of the House of Representatives of the States General (Nov. 3, 2015), GOVERNMENT.NL (click on Application of the Concept of Safe Countries to access PDF document).  Countries on the European safe country of origin list, once it has been drawn up, may not also be stated on a national list; upon “the establishment of the European list the ‘duplicates’ would therefore have to be deleted from the national list.” (Id.)

Pending an investigation into the security situation in Algeria, Georgia, Ukraine, Tunisia, and Turkey, State Secretary Dijkhoff may add these jurisdictions to the list; another 15 countries may also be considered for inclusion. Egypt, however, is one of the countries that will not be put on the list for the time being, as it does not meet the safe country of origin requirements.  (Letter of Feb. 9, 2016, supra.)