Last updated 3 months ago by Michael Darmanin
Undocumented refugees that encountered problems during the lock down in Utrecht, were temporarily put into shelters. But from the 1st of July, these shelters will be closed by the municipality of Utrecht and the refugees are back on the street again. It also appears that people who were put in detention for lack of identification papers are “released’. This means even minors are put out without any support. This new approach is a very unsatisfying way of dealing with undocumented people, according to STIL, an organisation that helps undocumented refugees. Strange enough, this organisation who supports people without permit to stay is financially supported by the same local government.
Utrecht does not have enough Shelter for the undocumented
During Corona the local government of Utrecht realized that people without a roof and income, suffered from the lock down. How can you stay at home if you don’t have one they must have thought. Now that the restaurants are opening and rules are less rigid, they are on their own again. Despite efforts there is not enough shelter for undocumented people. Bed, bath and bread shelters now accommodate about 220 refugees. But to have access to them you need to have a real chance at getting your licence to stay in the Netherlands in a kind of second juridical opinion. For example, if you have any new evidence or proof that your former denial was wrong. STIL tries to help homeless refugees by connecting them to private people who are temporarily willing to provide room and shelter until a permanent solution can be found.
Ongoing dilemma about human rights
Undocumented people have no “status” and cannot work, therefore they have no income. Some call them illegal but as has been proven, a lot of undocumented are able to get access (again) to the asylum procedure with the right amount of juridical support which STIL provides as well. The Netherlands respects human rights and international threats, everybody should have access to food, shelter and a bath (bed, bad en brood) and therefore it is not right to call those who have no residence visa (verblijfsvergunning), illegal. Only acts can be illegal, not humans.
Basic support in Utrecht
In the meantime, there is substantial support for those without documents (“uitgeprocedeerden”), which literally means those who are on row to be deported. They can ask for juridical help, get access to a dentist, doctor (hospital) and if necessary are supplied with basic toilet accessories. There is one condition, or actually two if you want to apply for support. Either there is substantial chance that you will get your permit the second way around, or you cooperate with your going back to your home country.
How to survive 18 months without money in Utrecht
This means that for example refugees who have been sent to the country where they first were registered but who are not willing to leave, that there is practically no support available. They must try to survive 18 months all on their own. After that they are allowed to apply for asylum in the Netherlands. It sounds strange but the Netherlands explains their policy with an appeal on Human rights. If after 18 months the first country has not made arrangements for the refugee, it is the duty of the Netherlands to open the procedure for asylum.
Corona lock down brings in more problems for refugees
Ter Apel has been closed and IND stopped all interviews, necessary for the decision about the legality of the refugees request. People therefore can be more than 2 years living on the street and on charity donations with no perspective whatsoever. They are usually (very) young, not used to working with computers, and above all are afraid to get caught. Isolation causes depression, it is not very helpful in learning Dutch and integrating in Dutch society. Groenlinks, a left wing political party in the Netherlands, made a proposition to alleviate this situation, but still there are a lot of young refugees that have no where to go.
Support refugees in Utrecht
Luckily Utrecht is a very friendly, vivid, progressive and emphatic city. Probably because of the influence of former Utrecht Mayor van Zanen, who recently became mayor of De Haag, lots of local initiatives have been created to help. During Corona, de Voorkamer continued their Dutch conversation lessons online and the “new neighbor wandelclub” organizes very nice walks in nature to relax and have some exercise. There are also lots of opportunities to get free food.