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2020 | Dutch Minister for Migration, Letter of 30 June 2020 regarding the Re-assessment of Syrian Asylum Cases on War Crimes

The Netherlands has granted asylum to a Syrian war criminal on only one occasion. Social media  have an important role in filtering out war criminals in asylum applications. These are the two most important conclusions of the State Secretary for Security and Justice (Minister for Migration), Mrs Broekers-Knol in her letter to Dutch Parliament.

The Netherlands does not want to shelter criminals of international crimes such as war crimes. Refugees suspected of (complicity in) such crimes may therefore be refused asylum on the grounds of Article 1F of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Following signals of the presence of Syrian war criminals among Syrian refugees who had been granted asylum in the Netherlands, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) re-assessed 12,570 files. The re-assessment focused on Syrian men who applied for asylum in the Netherlands in the four year period 2011-2015 and who were between 17 and 35 years old at the time. A novelty in the re-examination was that internet sources, in particular social media, were consulted. Screening asylum applicants on social media has meanwhile become standard procedure.

63 out of the 12,570 cases (0.5%) required further examination. Only one Syrian male turned out to be overlooked as a war criminal and lost his residence permit. 55 cases were closed due to insufficient evidence and seven cases are still pending. The re-assessment also detected 223 signals of fraud (1.8%) such as the incorrect nationality and residence data as well as signals relating to human trafficking and national security. In her letter the State Secretary does not elaborate on the latter issue in view of the sensitivity of the information.

The Nuhanovic Foundation finds the re-assessment’s outcome incompatible with signals from Syrian refugees in the Netherlands about the presence of Syrian war criminals on Dutch soil, such as Aziz A. who was recognized in a debate centre in Amsterdam. The Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, in an interview published in the Dutch magazine Groene Amsterdammer, purports that Europe is sheltering at least a thousand Syrians guilty of committing crimes against humanity. The question therefore arises how plausible the outcome of the IND re-assessment is. 

This parliamentary document (p. 92) shows that, to comply with Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (prohibition of torture), the Netherlands does not send Syrian suspects of international crimes back to Syria.