ACCEPT Pluralism Workshop in Amsterdam, the Netherlands


Human Mobility and Borders. Immigration policies in Europe and the implementation of boundaries.

Dissemination of Dutch WP4 ACCEPT-Pluralism Research report

Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES), University of Amsterdam

Conveners: dr. Floris Vermeulen and prof. dr. Marieke de Goede

June 14 2012, 9.00- 17.00

Location: Oudemanhuispoort 4-6,room A 008


The report presentation of the (extended) ACCEPT-report Contested policies of exclusion: Resistance and protest against asylum policy in the Netherlands (Versteegt and Maussen, 2012) was presented in concordance with the seminar “Human Mobility and Borders. Immigration policies in Europe and the implementation of boundaries”. This seminar was organized by the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES), at the University of Amsterdam by conveners: dr. Floris Vermeulen and prof. dr. Marieke de Goede and took place at Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, room A 008, of the Faculty of Law in Amsterdam. The entire afternoon was dedicated to the theme of the report. Various scientists, NGO representatives, church representatives, bureaucrats, local policy makers and journalists were participating in the debate. Approximately 60 persons attended the presentation.



Afternoon Session

Session 2: The implementation of asylum and immigration policy in the Netherlands: social consequences, feasibility and contestation : a discussion between policy makers, representatives of NGOs and academics

Chair: Dr. Barak Kalir (University of Amsterdam)

14.00-14.20 Dr. Inge Versteegt and dr. Marcel Maussen (University of Amsterdam), Presentation of country report Contested policies of exclusion: Resistance and protest against asylum policy in the Netherlands (Dutch contribution to ACCEPT pluralism WP4 ”Challenges to tolerance in political life: public policies of exclusion”)

Dr. Marcel Maussen introduced the ACCEPT project. Dr. Inge Versteegt presented a summary of the report. This presentation consisted of:

1. Research question

2. Method

3. Findings: actors, issues, strategies and discourses

4. The two case studies: Sahar and Mauro

5. Concluding remarks

14.20-14.40 dr. Bas Schotel (University of Amsterdam) and dr. Maarten den Heijer (University of Amsterdam) Dutch asylum policy practice in a European legal framework

The response dr. Maarten den Heijer to the report started with a question: to what purpose should we use this information, e.g. must we help un-frame the debate, or should we ourselves become framers? He pointed to some effects of framing, for example that equal treatment becomes subordinated to individual feelings of solidarity. For example, families are now more likely to get help than individuals. Therefore, policies must not be based on frames but on facts.

14.40-15.00 Wijnand Stevens , Directorate for Migration Policy, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Implementing strict asylum and expulsion policies: the perspective of policy makers

Mr. Stevens mainly addresses the need to comply with democratically established laws, Especially for civil servants who should not become policy makers. He provides some numbers and statistics which challenge the notion of The Netherlands as a country with a strict asylum policy.

15.00-15.20 Geesje Werkman (Kerk in Actie) and Doris Peschke (Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) Opportunities and practices of resistance and help for “unwanted” immigrants: perspectives of national and European NGO’s

Geesje Werkman expressed how her church-related NGO can be associated with opposing parties in the asylum debate. “Sometimes organizations for undocumented would say: You are collaborating with the IND, sometimes church members would say: you are pronouncing the statements of the opposition political parties, minister Leers says: you give the rejected asylum seekers false; hope but what we really try to do is living the word of God!

Doris Peschke adds that, despite the general notion in politics that the “people’” want to have strict immigration laws, her experience with NGOs, churches and people on the ground is different. Moreover, governments, when it comes to undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, do not hesitate to make decisions that are normally taken by courts and are pushing the boundaries of what is legal.

15.20-15.40 Niene Oepkes (Senior Policy Advisor Aliens Affairs Gemeente Utrecht) Local governments and the execution of asylum policies

Niene Oepkes explained the decisions taken on the local level, notably the city of Utrecht, and the local policy to create and support emergency shelter for irregular migrants. Why does Utrecht offer structural support, and not just incidentally? The rationale for providing shelter is to avoid problems of public order and safety, associated with homelessness. The other reason is out of international human rights obligations, and the duty of care which municipalities have. Informal care should only reduce the symptoms and would not create structural solutions for a structural problem. In her view, illegality is never a solution.

15.40-16.00 Tarak Bach Baouab (Medecins sans Frontières ) Looking beyond legal status to human need

Tarak Bach Baoubab wished to expand the debate on Dutch asylum policy to the effects worldwide. Since EU countries are restricting asylum seekers from entering, asylum\ seekers from Lybia who had arrived in Lampedusa, were refused access to Europe when they continued their travel. Instead they were forced to re-enter Lybia and find a boat that would take them straight to Europe.

16.00—16.30 Discussion with panel and audience

The final debate created many interesting opportunities for scientists, bureaucrats, NGOs and representatives of the Ministry of Immigration to confront each other with the (unwanted) outcomes of asylum policy. The main issue in the debate was whether (local) government representatives or civil servants are allowed to deviate from laws which have democratic legitimacy, or whether they are obliged to do so if these laws are in conflict with international human rights standards.


For the program of the event click here.

For a detailed report of the event click here.