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  • Writer's pictureAlina Stehle

Beyond asylum policy: what drives refugees to the Netherlands?

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

The asylum center “Europaweg” in Groningen © Alina Stehle

Dutch asylum policy is not the main reason why refugees decide to start a new life in the Netherlands, according to a respected think tank.

The factors that lead someone to leave their country and seek asylum were the subject of a study by the Dutch research institute Verwey Jonker, published last week.

This is important because it is still widely believed that the way a country handles asylum policy determines whether more or fewer refugees arrive. Political parties, particularly on the right, have been arguing that cushy conditions in the Netherlands are attracting larger numbers of refugees.

“It is time to stop this failing asylum policy!" (PVV Groningen)

The Verwey Jonker Institute identified two aspects that are crucial for refugees: Security and a network of family and friends. Such a network provides not only stability, but also help navigating the host country's bureaucracy.

Despite the new findings, many politicians - even on the left - still see asylum policy as the main factor influencing migration. 24-year-old Hans de Waard is a member of the Socialist Party and has a seat on the city council in Groningen. "People feel they don't have a choice, we have to give them a choice," he says.

Hans de Waard, Member of the Socialist Party in Groningen ©Alina Stehle

For him, solving the problems in the countries of origin that cause migration should be the first step of asylum policy. In addition, he believes it is crucial to pay refugees sufficiently, provide good housing and to have solidarity for everyone that is new in the country. Those factors are part of asylum policy and influence refugees in their decision to leave their initial home, he believes.

A problem that the Verwey Jonker report doesn't address, is what the Netherlands and other European countries can do to steer migration patterns in the near future, as climate change and armed conflict drive ever larger numbers of people to seek a life in Europe.

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