Dutch government backtracks on migrant family reunions

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FILE – Hundreds of migrants who seek shelter prepared to spend the night outside an overcrowded asylum seekers center in Ter Apel, northern Netherlands, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The Dutch government on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, backtracked on restrictions it had placed on family members joining asylum seekers who are granted residency in the Netherlands after courts ruled the move was unlawful. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government on Wednesday backtracked on restrictions that it placed last year on family members joining asylum-seekers who are granted residency in the Netherlands, after courts ruled the move was unlawful.

State Secretary for Justice and Security Eric van der Burg said in a letter to parliament that he expects other courts to follow suit “as a result of which the useful effect of the measure is temporarily absent.”

Van der Burg said he is temporarily suspending the family reunion restrictions pending a definitive ruling by a Dutch administrative court.

The justice ministry introduced the restrictions last year as part of a raft of measures aimed at reining in the high numbers of migrants arriving in the Netherlands that led to a housing crisis and overcrowding at asylum-seeker centers.

The problems came to a head in the summer when hundreds of people were forced to sleep outdoors in unsanitary conditions outside the country’s main migrant reception center in the northern village of Ter Apel.

The conditions at the camp were so bad that the Dutch branch of humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders sent a team to tend to the migrants, the first time the agency had deployed in the Netherlands.

In an attempt to ease the overcrowding, the government in late August announced measures including a move to temporarily rein in family reunions until migrants are permanently housed, provide more housing for people whose asylum requests are honored and process and repatriate people quicker from countries that are considered safe.

But a number of courts have since ruled that such family reunions can go ahead.

The Dutch council for Refugees has been highly critical of the policy, calling for it to be scrapped and labeling it “politics at its most ugly.”


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