Emotions in the House of Representatives regularly run high during migration debates, yet State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol always remains calm, sometimes even a bit nonchalant. Two months ago there was a moment of silence during a fierce debate about, among other things, the Moriadeal – the compromise to bring a hundred asylum seekers from Greece here, labeled by the opposition as haggling with human lives. In that silence Broekers-Knol said cheerfully, to no one in particular: I always get the urge to sing at moments like this. ”
It is typical of the VVD State Secretary. It is not noticeable from her attitude that debates are difficult, although this happens regularly. Also this Thursday, when she defends her budget, Broekers-Knol will have to answer a barrage of critical questions. Among other things, about the backlog at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND).
The special task force is not working
Although the Secretary of State made several promises to the House that all 13,500 overdue asylum cases would be dealt with before the end, it appeared last week that the specially appointed task force will not meet the deadline of December 31. At least 7,000 overdue cases will have to wait until 2021. According to the State Secretary, the delay is partly caused by the corona crisis.
To the chagrin of the House, the news was initially not released through a letter from the government, but thanks to a tweet from the Dutch Council for Refugees. The aid organization shared a letter that asylum seekers had received from the IND task force. “We are not going to achieve our goal, and we are sorry,” it said.
Promised earlier this year @ankiebroekers thousands of asylum seekers who have been desperately waiting for their procedure for years to be clarified this year.
Today asylum seekers report to us with a letter in which that promise has been broken.
The chaos is now complete pic.twitter.com/2Ez9MhJdkf
– Dutch Refugee Council (@VluchtelingWerk) 18 november 2020
Many MPs are angry. They want to know from the State Secretary on Thursday how the expectations raised are not met. MP Bram van Oijk (GroenLinks) already calls it ‘a political mockery’. Coalition parties are also critical. “This was a hard agreement with the State Secretary,” says Joël Voordewind (ChristenUnie). “I understand that corona causes problems,” says D66 Member of Parliament Maarten Groothuizen, “but of course we already knew that corona was there in April.”
More decisiveness required
It is by no means the only subject that the House wants to discuss with Broekers-Knol. Just like getting rid of the backlog at the IND, the return policy is also slow. Last year, the secretary of state got into diplomatic trouble after she stated that Morocco had refused an appointment with her. An agreement that was about taking back migrants without the chance to obtain a residence permit.
The Chamber called the diplomatic row ’embarrassing’ and wanted to see more decisiveness from the minister. The right-wing parties in the House of Representatives in particular want to hear how the State Secretary will ensure that asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies are actually deported.
The Chamber also wants to see more decisiveness when it comes to the Moriadeal. The cabinet promised to bring 100 asylum seekers from the burned down refugee camp to the Netherlands, but none of those refugees has yet set foot on Dutch soil. Broekers-Knol attributes this delay to the complicated selection process that must take place on the Greek side, and again points to corona as a complicating factor.
But the left-wing opposition parties are not satisfied with that explanation. Because why are the Germans able to take in refugees? Two weeks ago Attje Kuiken (PvdA) already criticized the in her eyes passive attitude of the State Secretary. “It radiates something like, ‘I’m there, I’m next to it, but it’s not my responsibility,’” she said at the time.
The State Secretary denies that she is taking a wait-and-see approach. According to her, there is “hard push and pull” to bring the hundred refugees from Lesbos to the Netherlands. She will again have to do her utmost to convince the House of this.
It is a bit of a surprise that Ankie Broekers-Knol is the successor to Harbers
Outgoing President of the Senate Ankie Broekers-Knol will become State Secretary for Justice and Security. She gets the sensitive post of migration and asylum matters. In doing so, she succeeds Mark Harbers, who recently resigned after misinforming the House of Representatives.