A substantial number of Sudanese asylum seekers, expats, and supporters gathered for a demonstration in the Dutch city of The Hague this morning, to protest a decision by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst IND) to reassess asylum applicants from Sudan’s Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states citing an ‘improved situation since 2017’.
Up to 50 Sudanese citizens – specifically from Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states – who have sought asylum in the Netherlands, some of whom have already lived legally in the country for more than five years and have now applied for permanent residence status, have been surprised and shocked to receive a letter from the IND informing them that unless they change the grounds for their application, they will be compelled to return to Sudan.
In an open letter in Dutch to Khadija Arib, Chairperson of the House of Representatives (equivalent to the Speaker of the Dutch Parliament), the protestors take issue with the IND’s assessment citing an ‘improved situation since 2017’ in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states.
“This statement is at odds with the actual situation in all parts of Sudan, let alone the conflict zones,” the letter asserts.
Jointly signed by the Darfur Union Association, the Sudanese Democratic Forum, Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad (the Netherlands), and the Committee of Sudanese asylum seekers in the Netherlands, the letter cites reports by international NGOs including Human Rights Watch and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), as well as UN agencies that still voice grave concern about the security situation in these areas.
Activists: ‘The official notice on which the State Secretary based her decision is not up to date and does not reflect the real security situation in Sudan’
The letter cites remarks by International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in her recent report to the UN Security Council that although throughout 2019, the number of returnees has exceeded the number of internally displaced persons in Darfur, the security situation has raised concern across the region.
It laments that “the decision of the State Secretary for Justice and Security to change the asylum policy for Sudan and in particular for Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, is not based on the real situation in Sudan.
“The official notice on which the State Secretary based her decision (WBV 2020/1), is not up to date and does not reflect the real security situation in Sudan.
“We appeal to the House of Representatives to put pressure on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice and Security to ensure that these ministries will base their policies towards Sudanese refugees on the actual security situation in Sudan,” the letter concludes.
The right to peaceful public protest is sacrosanct in the Netherlands and although the demonstration was subject to routine police monitoring, no incidents were reported.
As reported by Radio Dabanga last month, Sudanese in the Netherlands reacted with dismay when they received a letter from the IND informing them that unless they change the grounds for their application, they will be compelled to return to Sudan.
Responding to questions from Radio Dabanga at the time, Steffart Buijs, spokesperson for the Dutch Minister for Migration, Ankie Broekers-Knol, explained that the decision to reassess asylum applications is based on an official report dated October 3 2019.
Buijs points out that on January 12 this year, the new policy on Sudan was published and has since taken effect: “On April 30 the IND wrote on its website that it would be sending out letters to the individuals whose residence permit would be reassessed. Around 100 individuals will receive a letter from the IND informing them about the reassessment of their residence permit. All the individuals will receive this letter before November 1, 2020.”
“It has become evident that the situation [in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile (ed)] has improved. We have concluded that there is no longer a situation which is considered to be so volatile that any individual from this region is entitled to subsidiary protection,” Buijs told Radio Dabanga.
Sudanese citizens in the Netherlands told Radio Dabanga of their dismay at the decision: “The situation has become even more dangerous now because we don’t know what is happening or what might happen,” said one. “The security services, the government militia, and the ongoing conflict is still the same if not worse,” said another.
As elsewhere in Europe, traditionally moderate Dutch attitudes towards immigration have hardened over the past decades, and governments are under increasing internal political pressure from anti-immigration parties to be more selective in terms of asylum and residence applications.
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