Government gets tougher with illegal immigrants

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The Dutch government is taking a harder line on illegal immigrants. This year's target is to track and detain 4,800, ten percent more than in 2011. A performance agreement has been made between the cabinet and the police to ensure the quota be reached.

Immigration Minister Gerd Leers says more active detection must be done not only by the immigration police (Vreemdelingenpolitie), but also by police officers on the streets. According to the minister:

“People living here illegally is undesirable and not something that should be tolerated. There have to be penalties. We intend to give illegal immigrant a choice of becoming legal or leaving. That means they have to be tracked down and we now have agreements about that.”

Repatriation:

Illegal immigrants who are detained by the police are not immediately sent on a plane back to their country of origin.

They are first transferred to the Interior Ministry’s Repatriation and Departure Service, which determines whether or not a person can be deported. If repatriation is judged to be life-threatening, they are allowed to stay for the time being.

Illegal immigrants are housed in a secure centre for foreign nationals while they await deportation.

Checks and raids
Until now, it has been mainly illegal immigrants involved in crime or those endangering public safety who have been arrested. From now on, the police will also pick up those causing trouble or illegal immigrants they simply happen across. Asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal avenues to stay in the country and foreigners whose residence permits have expired will be particularly sought out. The police will, however, make allowances for vulnerable groups like minors, old and sick illegal immigrants and victims of people trafficking.

The police will decide for themselves how they fulfil the agreement with the government. There will certainly be more individual checks and raids on suspect premises. Computer data will play a greater role, even though police IT systems are not yet suited for this purpose.

Resistance
A major change is that ordinary police on the street will also contribute to the quota. Gerrit van de Kamp, chair of the police union ACP, argues that the same number of officers can’t be expected to pick up more people. The other problem he foresees is a resistance among officers to detain people not guilty of any criminal behaviour. According to him:

“The police are well aware that some of these groups may be living here illegally, but the question is whether they can be deported. There are groups who can’t be deported because of circumstances in their countries. If those people don’t display any criminal behaviour and commit no crimes, you have to wonder if it makes sense to pick them up and detain them.”

Opposition questions
Minister Leers dismisses the union’s arguments as nonsense. The police just have to recognise what their job is and work more efficiently. He says there are more than 100,000 people living illegally in the Netherlands and picking up these people must have priority. “We’re not going to hunt down and pick a fight with all illegal immigrants, but we are going to find them and detain them,” he said.

The opposition parties have submitted questions to Minister Leers and Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten. One  thing they want to know is which tasks the police will give up on in order to prioritise detaining thousands of immigrants. They are also concerned about the new policy turning into a witch-hunt. The ministers will soon have to appear in parliament to present their answers.

(imm/kh)