What We Do
Our Stories
Migrants  in  the  Netherlands

The situation of migrants in the Netherlands
Situated in the north west of Europe, the tiny state of the Netherlands is a tough destination for migrants. Considering all the hardship and obstacles that migrants encounter on the road, I found it at times almost miraculous that people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq or Eritrea reach this country at all. Arriving in the Netherlands means first of all that you did manage to leave your country, that you haven’t drowned in the Mediterranean sea, you haven’t been sent back to Turkey, you didn’t get stuck or imprisoned in one of the camps on the ‘Balkan route’, you haven’t been kidnapped, sold or enslaved by human traffickers in the African desert (or you managed to escape from them).

Once in the Netherlands, you have to make you way through the Dutch and European bureaucracy and procedures. The Dutch migration system and migration law distinguishes between regular procedures and asylum procedures. Regular migration is for example labour migration, migration for study, education or family life, if you have (core) family in the Netherlands.  If you have a well-funded fear of persecution, or there is a violent conflict in your home country, you can apply for asylum.

The Dutch asylum system is very well organized. The institutions work relative efficiently but there are also very strict criteria for being granted a refugee status. And with the high influx of migrants in 2014 and 2015 they got stricter. As an asylum seeker have access to free legal aid, interpreters, and to organizations that support you during your procedure and life in the Netherlands. The asylum procedures take between one week and six months, depending on your country of origin and your situation.  Documentation is hereby extremely important. During the procedure you will be provided by housing, healthcare and food.  Once you have a refugee status, you are entitled to housing, healthcare, work or social welfare. There are social programs and organizations that help you with your new life in the Netherlands.

Anyone who considers applying for asylum in a European country should be prepared for the so called Dublin convention.  It is called after a treaty that the European countries made in the city of Dublin, Ireland in 1990. It is supposed to be a common European framework to determine which European country is responsible for your asylum request. This system has been criticized a lot for its dysfunctionality and it is one of the many badly constructed things in the EU, but it is a reality that a lot of asylum seekers have to deal with. It says in short that the EU country responsible for you asylum request is the country where you are first fingerprinted, or the country that gives you a visa. It means, that you don’t really have a free choice in which European country you ask for asylum.  There are some exceptions to this, for example if you have dependent family members in one European state (especially when you are a minor), you can eventually be transferred to your family members.  Your fingerprints are registered in the so called Eurodac system and every European country can access this database.  When you arrive in the Netherlands and you are previously fingerprinted for example in Austria, you will be sent back to Austria where your asylum request will be processed. If you don’t want to be sent to the country where you are fingerprinted, you can appeal.

The Dublin regulation is handled more or less strict in different EU countries. In the Netherlands it is taken quite seriously, with one exception: If you were fingerprinted in Greece, you will not be sent back to Greece.  However, with the EU-Turkey deal this policy could change in the near future.

A downside of the Netherland as a migration country is that the situation for undocumented migrants is very difficult. Once your asylum procedure is rejected and eventual appeals have been unsuccessful, the Dutch government insists that you have to leave the country. If you can’t leave because you have no identification documents or don’t want to leave for other reasons, you have no legal status in the Netherlands at all. That means that you are not entitled for healthcare, housing, work or education and you are forced to live a life in the shadows.  Also are the Dutch known for the frequent and extended detention of undocumented migrants, even if this improved a little after a ruling from the European Court of Justice.

Why we should support Asylum Links

Life of a migrant, wherever he or she is, can be extremely challenging, complicated and exhausting. Being on the move means facing uncertainty, danger, trauma, life-threatening situations.  The ones on the move need the support of those who are settled and safe.  One way of support is passing on information in order to make well informed choices for the future. Information that sometimes can make the difference between life and death. Volunteers in and outside Europe have been inspirational in their reaction to the migrant flows in terms of offering support on numerous levels. Fortunately there are organizations like Asylum Links that just do what has to be done in the name of humanity.

I want to end with a poem that says it all, written by the Swedish author and journalist Stig Dagerman in 1953.

Flight sought us out

A bird seeks flight. We did not.
Flight sought us out. That´s why we´re here.
You who weren´t sought out – yet possess your freedom,
help us carry the heavy load of flight!

A shackle seeks a foot. We chose to go forth.
The night was merciful. Now we are here.
You are too many – might say those who are free and safe.
Can there be too many who know what freedom is?

No one seeks destitution. We did not.
It sought us out along the way. Now we are here.
To you who weren´t sought out: We know the weight of freedom!
Help us carry the load of being free!

Translated by Lo Dagerman
Written by
Lo Dageman / 03 June 2017

Lo is a volunteer that has been with us over a year now. She is also doing her International Relations masters at UCL
Refugee Life Style: Waiting to be Legal – Greece, Turkey & European Union

- By Lo Dageman
In this motionless humankind world I write down the words that have already been written, once again.

According to UNHCR 2016 report, the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home by armed conflict, generalized violence and persecution. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

In Greece 2018, more than 60000 refugees and migrants (mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis) are trapped, more than 15000 have been confined to the islands. Greece’s legal system on asylum is based on the Geneva Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, and on European Union (EU) legislation on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

At present, Turkey is the highest host countries worldwide with 3.9 million registered refugees (mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis) where almost 230000 are hosted in camps. Turkey was one of the original signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention but limits the scope of the Convention’s application to European asylum seekers. Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection introduced changes in its asylum system setting many temporary statuses (conditional refugee status, humanitarian residence permit, or temporary protection) for those coming from outside of the Convention’s application scope. They can be qualifying for international protection and not be subject to return to their home country but  they do not have the ability to integrate into Turkish society.

Facing the massive flux of Syrians in 2015, European Union (EU) established measures to prevent illegal entries and disorganized asylum process.

Balkans borders were closed and two relocation plans for Syrians, Iraqis, and Eritreans were set to transfer 66000 refugees from Greece to other EU members over a period of 2 years. In order to cope Greece deficiencies in its asylum services, EU set funds and personnel needed for Frontex – European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to help and operate the asylum centers. The stress on Greece’s obligation to stop onward movements is based on the Dublin Regulations EU rules that require the first country of entry to take responsibility for asylum applications.

The refugee crisis has also jeopardized the functioning of Schengen Area as some EU countries have re-imposed border controls and others are considering reintroducing border controls if Greece fails to control the current migratory flow. During that first year, less than 200 asylum seekers have been transferred out of Greece under the plan and EU countries have deployed just over half the personnel to operate the centers.

On March 18, 2016, the European Union signed an agreement with Turkey to stem migration and refugee flows to Greece. The EU-Turkey deal commits Turkey to accept the return of all asylum seekers who travelled through its land in exchange for billions of euros in aid, visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, and revived negotiations for Turkish accession to the EU. The deal also provides for the resettlement of one other Syrian refugee from Turkey for each Syrian returned to Turkey under the deal.

Asylum seekers from other countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, do not even have access to temporary protection status. At the same time, Greece, supported by the EU, put in place a containmennt policy, confining more than 15000 asylum seekers to the islands, living in crowded and filthy processing centers, in lightweight tents or even sleeping outside on the ground.

In addition, no one, regardless of nationality, who arrived after March 20, when the EU-Turkey deal went into effect, is eligible for relocation under the scheme. In reality, the EU-Turkey agreement has set a dangerous precedent by putting at risk the very principle of the right to seek refuge.

While Greece remains on the frontline of Europe’s asylum and migration challenges and Turkey is hosting over millions refugees, the acute economic crisis is felt by everybody and conflicts, far from ending, are sharpened increasing the hostile behaviour against refugees.

Despite UNHCR, NGOs and individual efforts to protect refugees and migrants and work on integration, this motionless humankind world is wrong, once again.
:Refugee have hope image
:Refugee have hope image
:Refugee have hope image
Lesvos refugees crisis lesvos refugees crisis..

These words have been clinging in my head since 2015 but as in many heads, they were just words.. Until i came to the island in December last year to meet many lovely people with tortured destinies waiting for one thing – the black stamp.

The road to Lesvos for many is a torture itself. Being locked up in a small yard in turkey with many other for four days without food or a toilet is one example of how terrible it can be before getting on a dingy boat- a rubber thingy that travels 15 kilometers of the sea separating turkey from Europe. Turkish Coast Guard (TCG) is paid by European union to patrol its waters and if a dingy is found, they get sent back to turkey. Only in April of this year TCG /Turkish police have stopped 90 boats with 3602 people, making it 10029 people since the beginning of the year.

Once on an island, everybody gets sent to the Moria camp, a refugee camp with over 6000 people, living in inhumane conditions. Poor sanitary conditions, families with children sleeping in tents, cold showers in cold winters, no laundry.. No sufficient medical and psychological support.. Photography there is prohibited: no wonder those in charge don’t want the world and European tax payers to see it.

Refugees receive free “food” but lining up could take up to two hours and if you are late, then you are left without any food. And what’d be worth waiting for so long? A croissant and a bottle of water for breakfast and a plain rice with a teaspoon of unidentifiable sauce for lunch or dinner.

Besides, every single adult or head of the family receives 90 Euros per month and 50 for other family members. Bus out of the camp costs 1,10 and food, coffee and everything else is more expensive than in many European cities (it’s an island). Even out of these 90 euros, according to some refugees and volunteers not all the sum always arrives to the pockets of its receivers. Often, big NGOs prove themselves corrupt and inefficient, while small NGOs make lives of these people bearable while they are waiting for that one thing, the black stamp. The black stamp will allow them to leave Lesvos and start a new life as a refugee with asylum status, few of them moving on further in Europe to reunite with their families, most staying in Greece, their new home…

Written by
Bárbara Orozco Díaz / 24 May 2018

Lo is a volunteer that has been with us over a year now. She is also doing her International Relations masters at UCL
Written by
Ben Tay / 07 August 2017

Lo is a volunteer that has been with us over a year now. She is also doing her International Relations masters at UCL
on  the  island  of  Lesvos…

- By Lo Dageman
:Refugee walk the long walk in Neathlands image
:Refugee have hope image
Top of the page
Are you looking for asylum advice? The best way to contact us is through our facebook page
Contact Us @
- By Lo Dageman