The agreements that the Netherlands made with Morocco in 2021 regarding the return of nuisance-causing asylum seekers are still having little effect. This ‘Morocco deal’, which should be one of the breakthroughs in asylum policy, hardly works on several crucial aspects. This was discovered by the joint research editors of the NOS and News hour, which scrutinized the agreements between the two countries. Only small numbers of nuisance-causing asylum seekers appear to have been deported.
Furthermore, the Moroccan authorities still only issue limited travel documents for people who refuse to return to their country. The people who were deported turned out to have gone on a voluntary basis. Moreover, it mainly concerns older people who have been living in the Netherlands for decades. Sources in municipalities where there is a lot of nuisance confirm to the research editors that there is hardly any effect.
The “broad action plan”, as responsible VVD State Secretary Van der Burg described the Morocco deal earlier, also appears to have no deterrent effect. The number of asylum applications from Morocco increased in the first three months of this year compared to last year. If things continue like this, almost 1,000 Moroccans are expected to apply for asylum this year, up from 721 in 2022.
Between January 2022 and the end of March 2023, the Netherlands asked Morocco to provide 375 travel documents, but only 43 people received a laissez-passer. This is a document to be able to enter Morocco from the Netherlands without valid identity papers. In the end, 32 people were forcibly deported. This is evident from figures put forward by the lawyer of the State Secretary in legal cases of Moroccans who want to prevent their deportation.
Rooted Moroccans, children of guest workers
From NOS/News hourresearch shows that it is unclear who will be returned. The various authorities do not provide insight into this. Van der Burg did fence with good results during his visit to Morocco two months ago. According to him, at that time – since the signatures were placed on the action plan – 125 Moroccan foreigners had “returned”.
However, the majority of the “returnees” went voluntarily. That was also possible before the deal, for example in exchange for a shorter prison sentence. Moreover, Morocco has traditionally been more lenient with the provision of documents if people want to go to Morocco themselves and can prove that they are Moroccan. But Morocco often refused to cooperate in the forced deportation of people whom the Netherlands wants to get rid of. This does not concern nuisance young asylum seekers, but older Moroccans. It is often men who are rooted here because they have lived in the Netherlands since childhood with the rest of their family, migration law lawyers confirm.
In the Netherlands for 50 years
Lawyer Berber Swart from Groningen is one of those lawyers. She assists people who are in the shelter in Ter Apel and who have committed a criminal offense. Swart also has clients who have been living in the Netherlands for much longer. “What I see is that the young men from Morocco who have a sentence are simply put on the street, while efforts are being made to deport people who have been living here for years.” For example, the Repatriation and Departure Service recently tried to deport a Moroccan client who has been living in the Netherlands for fifty years. The judge forbade this, by the way, because the man has been living in the Netherlands since he was four years old.
In Ter Apel and Budel, where most asylum seekers from Morocco are currently staying, they have not yet noticed the deal with Morocco. For example, mayor Van Kessel van Cranendonck, where the application center is located in Budel, says he sees no effect at all. Places such as Ter Apel, Emmen, Gilze en Rijen, Budel and cities such as Amsterdam and Utrecht are still experiencing a lot of nuisance from underprivileged asylum seekers, who mainly come from Morocco.
Response of the Secretary of State
In a response, State Secretary Van der Burg says that it is difficult to deport people because they start new procedures and evade supervision. At this point, they can also refuse to cooperate with their identification. The Moroccan embassy not only wants to obtain identity papers from a person to be deported, but also personally identify that person.
If that is not possible, Morocco will not issue travel documents. That is why the government is pushing for legislation that obliges foreign nationals to cooperate in determining their identity. Investments are also being made in more personnel capacity to detain foreign nationals in a timely manner and thus keep them available for departure, according to the State Secretary.
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