Migrants pay €700,000 to stay in Netherlands

Migrants pay €700,000 to stay in Netherlands

Like the rest of Europe, the Dutch are struggling to offer a welcoming home to migrants. Source: Pixabay

Migrants in the Netherlands have been required to pay more than €700,000 (US$760,000) over the past four years for accommodation, figures show.

There have been controversial attempts in Denmark, Switzerland and Germany to charge migrants in cash and valuables to help pay for their accommodation. Under a 2008 regulation, working migrants in the Netherlands have to pay 75 per cent of their earnings to cover food and living expenses. Migrants are required to declare any savings or valuables they bring into the Netherlands to the COA, the organisation which manages the country’s refugee centres.

Charges can be imposed if the assets exceed €5,895 for an individual or €11,790 for a family. Computers, mobile phones and wedding rings are not included as personal possessions. The COA figures suggest refugees paid out €221,000 in 2012, €178,000 in 2013 and €177,000 in 2014. The provisional figure for last year was €137,000, although this sum could increase. The bulk of this cash came from earnings, not confiscated possessions.

There are a reported 47,500 asylum seekers in the country, nearly twice the number at the end of 2014 and three times that from the previous year. Refugees are allowed to work for up to 24 weeks a year once they have been in the country for six months. A spokeswoman for the Dutch Council for Refugees said: “It’s inappropriate to seize people’s personal possessions but where people genuinely have the means it’s reasonable to bill them for their expenses.”

Under the Dutch system, arrivals are charged by the accommodation agency once they are housed, not by the immigration officers on arrival. It has been a source of debate in other European countries as states look to make migrants pay for their upkeep. Switzerland requires refugees to hand over any amount above 1,000 francs (US$986), although it can be claimed back if they leave before seven months. Copenhagen wants to take any amount above 10,000 kroner (US$1,450) in cash, while Bavaria and Baden-Württemburg in Germany have plans to claim cash and possessions worth more than €750 and €350 respectively.

Anti-immigration groups have hurled bottles and fireworks at council meetings, sent bullets through the post and left pigs’ heads at proposed refugee centres.

Migrants will also be given lessons by the Dutch LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, education minister Jet Bussemaker announced, adding that anti-gay discrimination would not be tolerated.

The ministry said it would supply asylum centres with the same LGBT leaflets that are found in Dutch secondary schools while providing lessons and setting up discussion groups. Bussemaker said: “We should not be naïve. Refugees come from countries where gay rights are not a matter of course and where women’s rights are not always accepted.” Last month five LGBT refugees, three from Syria, an Iraqi and an Iranian, were moved out of an asylum centre after they were spat on and attacked by other refugees, newspaper Het Parool reported.

“While we are very happy about the initiative, more needs to be done to introduce harsh and accurate punishments when LGBT asylum seekers are abused,” Dutch LGBT organisation COC Nederland spokesman Philip Tijsma said.

“The government need to take responsibility for the vast numbers of people being singled out for being LGBT,” he said. “Twenty asylum seekers have been placed in a safe house in Amsterdam, but there are more people suffering out there.”

COC said it was worried about the rising LGBT-related attacks. “In October, we received 10 complaints in just a few weeks. Since then, complaints of bullying and sexual harassment have continued to come through,” he said. Eurostat figures suggest the Netherlands received 14,775 applications in the third quarter of last year with 8,020 submitted by Syrian refugees. Germany allowed more than a million refugees to arrive last year.

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