Parliamentary Assembly

Return policies for failed asylum seekers

Doc. 10173 revised
30 April 2004

Motion for a resolution
presented by Mr Wilkinson and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.         In February 2004 the Dutch parliament approved a government policy setting up rules for implementing the return of asylum seekers who applied for asylum before 1 April 2000 and whose application has been rejected, herewith referred to as “failed asylum seekers”. This policy aims at expediting the return of this group, which may count as many as 26, 000 people, in the next three years, once they have exhausted all legal remedies against the refusal of their asylum application and provided that they are not granted a residence permit under other grounds.

2.         In the last weeks, the new Dutch policy on the return of failed asylum seekers has attracted considerable media attention.  Newspapers have boosted strongly-worded titles such as: ‘Dutch plan to expel refugees passes test. 26,000 may be forced to leave the country within next 3 years’, or ‘Thousands of people face return to conflict zones’.  As a sign of the opposition of the Dutch society to the government proposal, various protest marches have been held in the Netherlands. Strong criticism against the government proposal has been expressed also by the Dutch Refugee Council, the Dutch Council of Churches and the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW),

3.         Despite the alarm with which the media have reported the news, return policy is not a new issue in the immigration debate in the Netherlands. In fact, it was one of the core elements in the manifesto of the Christian Democrats during the last election campaign. Similarly, the implementation of an effective return policy for all illegal residents, including failed asylum seekers, is considered as a top priority within the European Union as well as a number of other Council of Europe member states.

4.         Consistent with its Recommendation 1624 (2003) on common policy on migration and asylum, the Assembly believes that the effective return of failed asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies against the refusal of their claim and do not have any right to stay in a Council of Europe member state on other grounds is necessary to ensure the integrity of the institution of asylum and the credibility of the asylum system before citizens as well as people in need of protection. The Committee of Ministers expressed a similar consideration in its Recommendation No. R (99) 12 on the return of rejected asylum seekers.

5.         The Assembly, however, wishes to emphasise that any return policy should comply with clear legal standards, including those elaborated within the Council of Europe, and give appropriate consideration to particular cases such as those of people who have lived in the country for a long time and have integrated here and children who were born or raised in the host country.

6.         A number of Council of Europe instruments set standards for Council of Europe member states to be followed in the elaboration and implementation of return policies: for instance, that preference should be given to voluntary return while forced return should be seen as a last resort or that detention should be possible only in exceptional cases, for a limited period of time and subjected to judicial oversight. The interest raised by the new Dutch policy, however, testifies of the importance that return policies for failed asylum seekers have acquired in the political debate and the need for the Council of Europe to have a comprehensive approach on this issue.

7.         The Assembly, therefore, wishes to conduct an in-depth study of the legislation and policy for the return of failed asylum seekers in Council of Europe member states, in order to elaborate recommendations on this subject in line with Council of Europe principles.

Signed [1]
Wilkinson, United Kingdom, EDG
Agramunt Funt de Mora, Spain, EPP/CD
Branger, France, EPP/CD
Einarsson, Sweden, UEL
Etherington, United Kingdom, SOC
Filipiov�, Czech Republic, EDG
Judd, United Kingdom, SOC
Platvoet, Netherlands, UEL
Tk�c, Slovakia, EDG
Vermot-Mangold, Switzerland, SOC
Wray, United Kingdom, SOC



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