Asylum seeker numbers to Netherlands at 13 year high
The number of people applying for asylum in the Netherlands has increased significantly in recent months. 12.300 people sought asylum in the Netherlands in the first half of 2014, twice as many as in the first half of 2013. This is the highest number of asylum seekers since the first half of 2001. The majority of asylum seekers currently come from Syria and Eritrea.
Most applicants from Eritrea or Syria
With 3.700 applications, Syrians formed the largest group of asylum seekers, followed by 3.500 Eritrean applicants. The combination of these two nationalities accounts for 58 per cent of all asylum applications during the last six months. In previous years the main countries of origin were Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fewer Eritreans arrived in June
The number of Eritrean asylum applications this year has been erratic, spiking in April, peaking around 1.900 in May and then falling sharply in June. In that country there is widespread political and religious persecution. Consequently the number of asylum seekers from Eritrea to EU nations increased strongly in the middle of 2013. Initially people mostly applied for asylum in Sweden and Germany.
In April and May 2014, through the partial influence and activities of people smugglers, large numbers of Eritrean asylum seekers unexpectedly arrived in the Netherlands. In May the Ministry of Security and Justice responded by announcing a number of measures. In June, only 200 Eritreans arrived in the Netherlands.
Syrian asylum seekers
The number of asylum seekers from Syria has been steadily rising over the last 12 months, with 900 people applying in June this year. The increase in the number of Syrian asylum seekers is linked to the ongoing Syrian civil war.
There has been discussion in recent weeks by the Dutch government about how many Syrian asylum seekers the Netherlands will accept. Last week the first of 250 selected Syrian refugees arrived in Amsterdam. The opposition, including the Socialist Party, Groenlinks and the Christian Union, insist the Netherlands should accept many more than 250 Syrians.
Fred Teeven, the State Secretary for Security and Justice, believes refugees fleeing the conflict are better off remaining close to their home country. "The solution lies in the region, not here", Teveen was quoted as saying by the Volkskrant.
Refugee flow dependent on homeland situation and Dutch policy
Since 2007 there have been several peaks in asylum seeker numbers from four particular countries. In addition to the many Syrian and Eritrean applicants this year, 2008 saw high numbers of Iraqi asylum seekers, and in 2009 a rise in numbers from Somalia.
Although asylum seeker numbers are almost always associated with unstable political situations in their homeland, refugee policies in destination countries also play an important role.
The influence of Dutch policies is apparent in the increased number of asylum seekers from Somalia and Iraq in the period from 2008 to 2010, which was partly due to the implementation of the Dutch categorical protection policy (categoriale bescherming), which was temporarily applicable for threatened refugee groups for whom it was too dangerous to return to their country of origin.