UN claims of asylum seekers’ ‘inhumane’ treatment provoke Dutch ire
"The Netherlands endeavors to prevent foreign nationals without lawful residence ending up on the street," immigration minister Fred Teeven wrote to AFP.
The uproar from UN officials came after the central government recently refused to release €15 million in funds for local authorities to provide accommodation and food for those asylum seekers, who have been deemed to lack genuine humanitarian reasons for staying in the Netherlands without a visa
“In these dark days before Christmas, it is appalling that the Dutch Government will not even commit less than 0.01 per cent of its yearly budget to help people living in absolute misery and poverty,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Mr. Philip Alston.
The country of 17 million people has experienced a spike in arriving asylum seekers, with 12,000 – more than in any year since 2001 – arriving in the first six months of this year.
The countries of origin are some of the most troubled places on Earth: with Syria and Eritrea at the top by some distance, then Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The presence of illegal migrants – and there are thought to be more than 100,000 in the country, according to the Dutch Refugee Council - has generated social friction.
A demonstration in support of Gaza in the summer in The Hague morphed into a pro-ISIS rally, with the crowd shouting anti-Semitic slogans. This was followed by a counter-rally of Pro Patria, a far-right group, which marched through an immigrant-dominated suburb in the same city.
Right-wing libertarian leader, and noted anti-Islamist Geert Wilders, whose party – already the fourth biggest in parliament - threatens to make gains in the next election has dominated the debate. One of his proposals in the past months has included forcing immigrants from Islamic states to sign a document renouncing Shariah law.
The center-right government has gone on the defensive, passing tough immigration measures to avoid being seen as soft.
The UN has condemned this political posturing.
“Politicians in the Netherlands have been trying to score political points at the expense of homeless irregular migrants in the national debate about immigration,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, said Tuesday.
“Human migration patterns will not change by letting migrants sleep on the streets.”
The international human rights rapporteurs, independent experts, who are authorized by the United Nations, have called for the government to allocate more money to provide basic amenities.
“Forcing the most vulnerable people into homelessness during the harshness of winter is particularly egregious,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha.
“Emergency services such as homeless shelters, and adequate housing alternatives, must be made available to migrants, regardless of their legal status in the country.”
But the government says that any measures should be taken by Europe as a whole, following an EU meeting of foreign ministers, scheduled for February or March, and has reiterated that it will not provide any extra money until then.
"Calling for measures to be adopted is at this stage premature," said a statement from the immigration ministry.