Immigration detention

About immigration detention

At this moment our English website is not fully complete. We are working on a complete translation and hope to publish this soon. For more information in dutch, see our dutch website.

An alien is someone who doesn’t hold the Dutch nationality or legally has to be to be treated as a Dutch national. In this category, one can think of asylum seekers, economic migrants, exchange students and family members who would like to be reunited with their families.

When a person travels to the Netherlands with the intention of staying here for more than three months, he or she has to request the Dutch government for permission. To stay in the Netherlands on a legal basis, it is necessary to apply for a so-called ‘residents permit’.

Immigration detention

In case an alien doesn’t hold (or no longer holds) a residents permit, he needs to leave the country voluntarily. If he doesn’t, the alien is residing in the Netherlands illegally and, from that moment onwards, can be detained in immigration detention (also known as administrative detention).  There are specific detention centers, which are used to hold and deport aliens who do not possess a valid residents permit. These people can be detained for their lack of documents, without committing any crimes, for up to eighteen months.

An immigration detention centre is a specific detention centre to detain those who reside in the Netherlands illegally. These people are held with the aim to deport them to their country of origin, or to another country. Because deportation isn’t always possible, the alien may be released from detention instead. Immigration detention is allowed for a maximum of 18 months and as long as there is a ‘reasonable perspective’ on deportation in the near future. The court will review monthly if this is still the case. In practice, however, the court will assume so during the first six months. After six months, the court does need to decide whether or not to prolong the detention. At this point, the government needs to make it even more clear that there  still is a perspective on deportation, or that the foreigner is to blame for not being deported yet.

Deportation is only possible if the receiving country allows the person to enter the country. For permission to enter a country of origin a passport or a laissez-passer (single use passport) is necessary. However, many embassies do not grand these documents easily and deportation without these documents is impossible. It also occurs that a person is already registered in another European country, for example because he previously applied there for a residents permit , because he or she has been arrested for crossing the border illegally, or for illegal residence. If this is the case, this other European country is, due to the Dublin Regulation, obliged to accept this person back when deported from the Netherlands.

When there is no longer a perspective on deportation, the detention has to be terminated. However, this doesn’t mean the alien is allowed to stay in the Netherlands. He still needs to leave the country on his own. He also doesn’t have the right to shelter or to receive (unemployment) benefits. There is one exception to this: families with children cannot be evicted and must be offered shelter.
Someone without valid papers can be locked up in immigration detention again and again, even if released previously because there was no perspective on deportation. If this happens, the court usually decides after six months of detention, that there still is no perspective on deportation. However, if the circumstances changed, the court can decide otherwise and prolong the detention.

Children can only be held in immigration detention for a maximum of two weeks. Parents with children, who want to stay together, can therefore also only be detained for a two week period. Families with children requesting asylum at the airport Schiphol, can be held in detention for a longer period of time: during the application procedure (a maximum of six weeks) and the deportation term (a maximum of two weeks).

There are currently three immigration detention centers in use in the Netherlands:

Justitieel Complex Schiphol

Detentiecentrum Zeist

Detentiecentrum Rotterdam

Families with minors will be held in the ‘enclosed family centre’:

Gesloten Gezinsvoorziening Zeist