The European Committee of Social Rights has found that the Netherlands is violating the rights of irregular migrants under the European Social Charter. In particular, as the large majority of undocumented adult migrants without resources who have not been returned are generally not provided with accommodation and are denied medical assistance in legislation and practice, the Committee found the situation not to be in conformity with Article 13§4 (right to social and medical assistance) and with Article 31§2 (right to housing).

As recalled by the Committee, States Parties to the Charter shall provide appropriate short-term assistance to persons in a situation of immediate and urgent need. This criterion must not be interpreted too narrowly, introducing undue requirements for the enjoyment of such right such as the length of presence on the territory of a State or the status of a person.

In its decision in favour of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) which submitted the complaint against The Netherlands, the Committee argues that access to sufficient health care is a prerequisite for the preservation of human dignity and this should be granted within the minimum protection provided to migrants. In addition, the Committee notes that the right to shelter is closely connected to the right to life and crucial for the respect of every person’s human dignity.

The Dutch Council for Refugees (DCR) has underlined that in The Netherlands, asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected have 12 weeks to prepare for their return during which they can stay in closed centres provided they cooperate with the return. However, DCR stresses, some asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected feel that it is not safe for them to return. Others may agree to return but the lack of cooperation of the embassy of their home country might make it impossible. “They are not allowed to stay and at the same time they cannot return, often ending up on the streets”, said Jasper Kuipers, Deputy Director of the Dutch Council for Refugees and ECRE Board Member. “The government hopes that by making it as difficult as possible for people, they will eventually go away but you should never violate human rights as a means to force them to return”, he added.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 14 November 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.