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13 December 2020 – Netherlands

Rotterdam Detention Centre Seen From Outside, (Ziarah Utara,
Rotterdam Detention Centre Seen From Outside, (Ziarah Utara, "Detention Centres in The Netherlands," 6 November 2014,

In early December the Court of the Hague annulled the State Secretary for Justice and Security’s April 2020 decision to deport an Iranian national with severe heart problems, on the grounds that the State Secretary had failed to take into account Iran’s COVID-19 situation. In the court’s opinion, the plaintiff could have lacked access to necessary healthcare services in Iran given the pressure that the pandemic has placed on the country’s healthcare infrastructure. The court requested the State Secretary to conduct further research into the individual’s access to necessary medical treatment in Iran, and to make a new decision within ten weeks.

As previously reported on this platform (see 8 October Netherlands update), the Netherlands did not fully suspend deportations and removals during the pandemic. On 30 November, for example, the country deported a Nigerien national using a private chartered aircraft to transfer the individual to Paris, from where he was flown to Niger. According to the Dutch NGO Meldpunt Vreemdelingendetentie, after landing in Niger the individual heard that a Dutch judge had ordered his release from detention: “If he had not been deported, then he would have been free again, in the Netherlands.”

Detention centres in the Netherlands, meanwhile, have again been scrutinised for their use of isolation–both via the use of isolation cells, and collective isolation in ordinary cells. Despite acknowledging the harmful effects of isolation, and pledging to reduce its use in both 2015 and 2019, the rate of isolation has instead increased. According to Amnesty International, a foreign national was placed in isolation 384 times in 2017, compared to 624 times during the first eleven months of 2019. Amnesty pointed, also, to the repeated lock-downs of Rotterdam Detention Centre during the pandemic, which left detainees locked up in their own cells for 23 hours a day, for up to four weeks. Under a proposed new bill–’Amendments to the Return and Immigration Detention Act’–lockdown could become a regular feature in the country’s detention centres.

Non-nationals in the Netherlands, like many other countries, appear to face higher chances of contracting COVID-19 than nationals, as well as higher mortality rates. According to an October OECD report, death statistics in the Netherlands in March and April 2020 reveal that deaths were 47 percent higher than usual for immigrants from lower-income countries and their children, compared to 38 percent higher for those who are native born with Dutch parents. According to the OECD, this discrepancy may be due in part to poverty, poorer quality housing, and an inability to understand national information campaigns. To help address this, volunteer translators in the Netherlands have started providing translations of newscasts from the country’s public broadcaster. One organisation–Pharos, which works to address health inequalities–has started translating government guidelines but using simpler vocabulary accompanied by images. As of today, information is available in Dutch, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Papiamento, Polish, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya and Turkish.