Radio Netherlands Worldwide

SSO Login

More login possibilities:

  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • LinkedIn
Saturday 20 December  
Asylum-seekers in 'Sanctuary Church' in Amsterdam
Lauren Comiteau's picture
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam asylum-seekers: “not my problem”

Published on : 15 December 2012 - 11:23am | By Lauren Comiteau (Photo: ANP)
More about:

Two weeks ago some 100 asylum-seekers – mostly from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan – were evicted from their temporary tent camp in Osdorp in the west of Amsterdam. By the end of the day, 96 of them were back on the streets, with nowhere to go and seemingly no one to help them.

Amsterdam’s mayor offered to give this particular group of failed asylum-seekers one month’s shelter after their eviction. The refugees didn’t take him up on the offer because they feared they would disappear from the public radar if they didn’t stay together as a group.

This particular aspect of the asylum problem – what to do with refugees who are not allowed to stay in the Netherlands but who cannot return to their home countries either – is a perennial problem.

Sociologist Merijn Oudenampsen is part of a group of sympathisers who have helped find the asylum-seekers from the Osdorp tent camp temporary shelter in the VluchtKerk or Sanctuary Church. (The Amsterdam real estate developer who owns the disused church has, remarkably, agreed to its use as a shelter for the winter months.)

Lauren Comiteau spoke to Oudenampsen about why the asylum debate is different now.

Are the Dutch shirking their responsibility?

In general, there used to be an idea that the state has responsibility in terms of giving shelter to people with no place to go. The municipalities had a role in providing shelter, too. Now they’re left on the streets. There’s a new hard line policy from The Hague that’s pressing to make it illegal to give aid to undocumented people. So if I provide help to people who don’t have the documents to stay or go, I’m liable.

Is that policy, of criminalising aid to undocumented people, already in effect?

Not yet, but it is the policy hardliners from Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party and the VVD of Prime Minster Mark Rutte are pushing for, the policy supported by the Deputy Justice Minister Fred Teeven. And the Amsterdam city council has given in under the pressure and tried to make the asylum-seekers in Osdorp disappear. For the mayor, they became a public order problem, these people were visible. But it’s strange if he thinks the problem will disappear if the asylum seekers are out of sight.

So the asylum seekers debate seems to have taken an ugly turn…

The problem keeps returning. Local governments now are under pressure from the national government. And the Dutch right wants to adopt laws in contradiction of international human rights treaties. There is a distorted public discourse now in the Netherlands regarding immigration and asylum seekers, and a strong political effect of these statements. They have a chilling effect on people. And official institutions, too, are under pressure to not provide help.

So what’s next?

The asylum seekers need to stay visible and press for a political solution. There needs to be a solution from the government. It’s not up to voluntary organisations to provide shelter. We don’t have the resources. They can stay in the church through the winter months. But this problem is not going to go away.


  • Asylum-seekers in &#039;Sanctuary Church&#039; in Amsterdam<br>&copy; (C) ANP -
  • Asylum-seekers in &#039;Sanctuary Church&#039; in Amsterdam<br>&copy; (C) ANP -
  • Asylum-seekers in &#039;Sanctuary Church&#039; in Amsterdam<br>&copy; (C) ANP -
  • Asylum-seeker in &#039;Sanctuary Church&#039; in Amsterdam<br>&copy; (C) ANP -


Rehan Rafique 22 September 2013 - 4:25pm / Pakistan

Dear in Christ,

Greetings in the loving name of Lord Jesus Christ.

Today you heard and watched the church blast in Peshawar. And I hope you are aware of the conditions (Physical/Financial) of Christians in Pakistan. I heard about Holland NGO who is working for the migration of Christians from Pakistan through Sri Lanka but it cost a lot for poor Christians. Also heard about Thailand that some people are also working there for Pakistani Christians to take asylum but again the matter is money. I also met here a person that is working for that Holland NGO but it costs Rs. 4 Lac for 1 person and we are 5. We have 3 children and eldest one is 8 years old). In present situations, sometimes we are even not able to pay the school dues of our children.

Kindly advise if your organization or some other organization can help us to move abroad for security and bright future. We'll be grateful to you.

Thanks. Have a blessed time.

Sincerely in Christ,
Rehan Rafique
House # 19-A-S-176, Lal Street, Bahar Colony,
Kot Lakhpat, Lahore-Pakistan.
Cell: 0321-5844811

immigration asylum 9 September 2013 - 2:31pm / US

So what are some of the changes that have developed in asylum law?
Generally, each presidential administration has broad authority to provide more asylum benefits or provide less asylum benefits to seekers.immigration asylum has changed dramatically in the United States. As more and more countries go to war and persecution continues throughout the developing world, many seek the opportunity to live freely in the worlds most free country, the United States. The US government has had a valuable policy of helping asylum seekers find a path to residency and ultimately, citizenship.

Anonymous 15 December 2012 - 9:24pm / Lalaland

Indeed, there needs to be a solution from the government. Thou dost not know my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.

Post new comment

Please be reminded all comments must be in English, short and to the point - guideline 250 words. Abusive and inappropriate comments will be removed.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

RNW on Facebook

RNW Player

Video highlights

Ladies on the move
RNW is keen on featuring inspiring women in our target countries, women who...
What about men?
In many countries, men don't stick around to raise their children. This is...