Refugee and asylum law

If you want good legal advice and representation in asylum affairs and asylum law (asylum seekers and refugees) I am the right person for you. As an asylum lawyer I have substantial experience dealing with asylum applications by political refugees and other asylum seekers. Asylum law and refugee law is a dynamic area of the law, as it depends to a large extent on the political atmosphere and security considerations at that time. It is therefore important for an asylum lawyer to keep up with the current and emerging developments at that time. Policies with regards to this area of the law are frequently changed and in certain instances can be written on a weekly basis. For example, the security situation in Eritrea and Syria, as well as that of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan change as the conditions within those nations and others around the world change.

The laws and policies in this field are usually related to people who have political problems, those fleeing from war, or people who do not have the freedom to practice their own religion or sexual orientation within their own country. My office has had a lot of experience with people who had to flee their countries because of their adherence and/or conversion to the Christian faith. I have also had a lot of experience with asylum requests from people with a different sexual orientation, such as those from the gay or LGBTI community.

I am of course a member of the Vereniging Asieladvocaten en -juristen Nederland (VAJN – Dutch Association of Asylum Lawyers and Solicitors).

Explanation of the asylum procedure

Before the asylum procedure starts the asylum seeker has a discussion with the lawyer (day-1). Unfortunately, in practice it may take months before this first step of meeting and discussing with lawyer can take place. If the asylum seeker retains me as their preferred lawyer, the conversation could of course take place earlier in my office. I however do not recommend this in all cases, because the information given by me can be misplaced if the hearings start much later. Ideally, it’s a good idea to do the preparation shortly before the start of the hearing. It is important to have all documents in advance, so consultations with regards to provision of proper documentation at an early phase is extremely important.

During the preparatory discussion (day-1) my focus is on intimating the asylum seeker with the procedure and to give relevant tips that are important for the first and subsequent hearings. There is an assumption on my part that at this stage the asylum seeker has some basic knowledge of the asylum procedure based on the leaflets that are handed out by the Dutch immigration authorities (IND). Furthermore, I will give relevant advice on the submission of documents and also discuss the registration hearing with the applicant. Finally, I will give important advice with regards to working with an interpreter. If there is any medical problem, or other information of interest, then the asylum seeker can inform me about this during the conversation. In some cases, the asylum seeker may want to be heard only by a female or male staff member and interpreter. Only I can arrange that as their legal representative. I can make sure that Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland (Dutch Refugee Work) attends the hearing to offer some support. We can discuss this at the office beforehand and thus prepare well for the case.

In the normal AA (Asiel Aanvraag – Asylment Application) procedure a decision on the request will be given within 8 days. The asylum seeker gets a first hearing with the IND in which he offers information on his/her identity, the country of origin and travel route (day 1). The lawyer is not present at the hearing. The next day the lawyer will discuss the report of the hearing with the asylum seeker, and prepare them for the 'further hearing' (day 2). In the further hearing, the applicant can explain the motivation behind his/her request for asylum (day 3). Again, the lawyer will not be present at that meeting. The next day (day 4) the report of the second hearing will again be discussed by the asylum seeker and the lawyer the next day. On day 5 the IND takes a preliminary decision, which may or may not be a positive decision, or the 'intention' to decide positively. In this situation, the asylum seeker can give his own views about the decision (day 6). On day 7 the IND makes a final decision. If the asylum application is rejected, the asylum seeker can appeal the decision to the Court which is on day 8 of the procedure. The lawyer will make all the necessary arrangements. If the judge considers the appeal to be baseless, the asylum seeker still has the option of a second appeal to the legislation administration of the Hoge Raad (State Council). However, he cannot officially await the results of these efforts in the Netherlands.

Where it is not possible to take a decision within 8 days, the asylum seeker will enter the VA (Verlengde Asielprocedure ), the Extended Asylum Procedure). Usually the IND will make this known on the fifth day (day 5). The IND must take a decision within 6 months, this however is often done within a shorter period, depending on the reason for the extension. Reasons for extension may be among other things; capacity problems at the IND, the necessity for additional hearings, document examination, language analysis or research in the country of origin. The IND will give this in a letter that will also specify the reason for the extension and the final decision deadline. The lawyer will inform the asylum seeker about this at that point. Being in the VA procedure does not really impact the case in a negative way, but it does mean that the asylum seeker must wait even longer. It also means that any spouse or partner who wants to travel afterwards will also have to wait longer.

If the asylum seeker is granted a residence permit, I can submit an application for the spouse or partner and any minor children to be allowed to come and join them here in the Netherlands. In some cases, and application can also be made for adult children who have been part of the family (up to 24 years), to be allowed to come and join the asylum seeker. These requests are not done by me as a lawyer, but through the Refugee Work. They have a lot of experience in this area. In the event that the MVV application of the partner is rejected, the asylum seeker can always contact me it they have objections to the ruling.

Dublin Regulation

I handle a lot of ‘Dublin cases’. These are applications from asylum seekers who have already made such requests in other European countries. In some of such cases requests are made for asylum status after receiving a visa from another EU country (even though it was not used). In many of such cases, asylum seekers have only been thumb printed in another EU-country. However, because this is the legal equivalent to applying for asylum, many cases like this are very difficult to win. This is because the applicant comes from a country where, according to the Netherlands, good legal protection is provided. But there are also a number of problematic countries where asylum seekers do not have the rights they should have according to European or international treaties. Sometimes there are medical reasons which we can use. As a lawyer I can appeal all such decisions. Also in Dublin cases, strict deadlines are applied and these are sometimes not met by the government.  As a lawyer I can check whether all these regulations have been complied with, and where there are discrepancies we can use that as a basis to get admission to the national procedure.

HASA

In addition, as an asylum lawyer I have handled many repeat applications for asylum or the so called HASA requests. These procedures are not easy to comply with because anytime a repeated asylum request is made new evidence (facts and circumstances) have to be provided to support such cases. It is essential to thoroughly prepare for such cases before bringing them forward. In doing so, the applicant needs to be aware that in some cases that require many hours, a processing fee may be requested to cover the expense of such applications, because the government no longer grants full compensation for such cases. In these cases no application for government costs (toevoeging) will be requested and the case will be dealt with a processing fee only. If you would like to have determined whether a new application would be useful or should you have new statements, you may send these to me for assessment. Please send the IND decisions (“voornemen” and “beschikking”) along with a copy of the court’s ruling, preferably per email. Please refrain from sending additional pieces, as I will request these from your person or previous lawyer accordingly at a later stage. I kindly request that all pieces by emailed to me in one separate email in PDF format. You may contact me for any additional questions.

Withdrawal

My law firm provides advice in cases where the asylum residence permit has been withdrawn. The consequences for individuals who fall into this category can be quite serious, with implications not just for themselves but also for their family and friends. In some cases, the withdrawal is unwarranted and may be litigated against. Each case is different so it is very difficult to comment in general without access to the relevant documents, consequently each request must be looked at individually and judged on its own merit. Therefore, it is necessary to have a discussion and review all supporting documents before the best advice can be given. Also it often happens that if the applicant has been here for a long time and is well integrated that, that condition can serve as a basis to make an appeal for them to stay. In some of such cases I can apply for a regular permit on your behalf. So please feel free to contact me to discuss everything.

COA and moving

With regards to questions relating to finances and housing in the shelters, I have to refer you to the COA (Centrale Opvang voor Asielzoekers). This is the agency that handles such matters. As a private legal practitioner I am not involved in arranging transfers and related issues. It's better to discuss such issues with the Vluchtelingenwerk at the AZC where you are located. They are more focused on and experienced with dealing with such matters. As a lawyer I would like to concentrate on providing the best possible assistance relevant to obtaining a residence permit. Whether it is a simple or a complex problematic case, where it seems nothing can be solved, I will still be happy to be of assistance you.

The court case procedure

It is important to take note of the following should your case be taken up by the Court.

Many persons consider a court case very important and for this reason incorrectly assume that everything will be divulged during the court case. This is not the reality. The procedures are done in writing. Arguments are submitted in writing to the Court prior to convening. Extra documents and information need to be submitted to the Court for consideration up until 10 days before the set date. Anything otherwise is only permissible in extraordinary circumstances.

Accordingly, the trial does not serve the purpose for the entire case to be laid before the presiding judge. The judge has already been familiarized with the dossier. The trial is meant to provide the judge with the opportunity to pose any relevant questions to the parties. The IND is present at almost all times for this reason. I may provide explanation and clarification about the case on your behalf.

The judge often provides you with the chance to give a closing statement: you may make use of this opportunity but this is not necessary. It is useful that you consult with me before you want to make a statement regardless, and limit your statement to a short and powerful one. The verdict is not rendered at the close of the court case. This may take some weeks in fact. The judge will let us know at the end of the hearing how long we will need to wait for the decision.

A negative decision can be appealed in most cases.

In the case of a positive decision the court will dismiss the decision of the IND and turn the case back over to the IND. The court does not have the authority to grant a residence permit itself and merely has the capacity to supervise weather the IND has operated in a just manner. The IND then has to make a new decision mindful of the court’s objections and considerations. The new decision (by the IND) can be again negative, leading to a new submittal of an appeal at the court. In the case of a positive decision the IND can also appeal at the high court if they are not in agreement with the judgment. Thus a positive decision can be turned into a negative one.

In the case of an negative decision of the court we can initiate second appeal at the high court (Raad van State). This however is a formal and often mere written procedure. The second appeal mostly does not allow for the of the decision in the Netherlands and the COA aid will in most instances cease 28 days after the court’s judgment. This may be even sooner where the shorter AA procedure is concerned. If necessary I can request an urgent “vovo” in order to counter deportation and the termination of aid. When a positive decision is reached in second appeal, the case can either by referred back to the IND or the court.

A complaint against the Netherlands (the Dutch State) can be lodged with the European Court of Human Rights if the second appeal is also negative. These are complex and lengthy procedures for which the majority of cases will not be eligible. Please contact me to find out if youre case is applicable.