That’s the conclusion an Amnesty International led symposium reached last Friday, due to our immigration policies and especially the detention of socalled illegal immigrants. Between eight and ten thousand immigrants are jailed each year without having comitted a crime and they stay there on average some 97 days, with twenty percent being in prison for half a year or longer. These are people who have applied for asylum or leave to remain but were rejected and/or who didn’t have the right kind of documents and I.D. Perhaps the worst thing about it is that many of those jailed will leave prison without being either deported or leave to remain, but are just thrown out on the streets again, to be jailed again the next time the police taks to them.
Once in prison you can’t do anything but sit in your cell. Neither work nor study is allowed, contact with the outside world is limited and there is little to no organised activity within prison. In some cases the detention centre is worse than a regular prison is ever allowed to be, which means murderers and rapists are treated better than people whose only fault was to not have the right kind of papers.
The criticism isn’t new, as it’s largely unchanged from the criticism in the 2008 Amnesty International report on migrant detention in the Netherlands (PDF). What’s worrying is that the current government is much more hardlined on migration, actually planning to make not having valid papers a crime. It also wants to “intensify” deportion policies i.e. wants to deport more people more often. Already the government tried to deport Iraki Chritians depsite having recieved a letter from the European Court of Human Rights forbidding this. Incidently the responsible minister, Gerd Leers, was once mayor of Maastricht but had to leave his post because of alleged corruption — nothing proven, but enough smoke that the city council was afraid to find fire and sacked him.
But that’s just a coincidence. It doesn’t matter whether Leers is corrupt or not, because we’ve seen the immigration policies of successive governments in the Netherlands only get worse during the past decade. For a certain part of the electorate, being tough on immigration is a good thing and whether or not the methods use are illegal or immortal is not important. With the PVV feeding the flames of xenophobia (loudly drumming on their desks during the emergency debate about the deportation of those Iraqi refugees) and our rightwing minority government dependent on their support, I expect things will be getting worser still. There certainly doesn’t seem to have been any great rush in improving migrant detention after the publication of Amnesty’s first report two years ago…