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The highest administrative court of the Dutch government affirms forced removal policy
On February 3, 2015 the highest administrative court in the Netherlands—the Dutch Council of State—handed down its judgment in a case concerning the lawfulness of an asylum seeker’s detention pending removal to Somalia. While the District Court, in its November 5, 2014 decision determined that the possibility of carrying out removal proceedings to Somalia within a reasonable period of time had “ceased to exist,” the Secretary of State appealed to the Council of State. The Secretary of State argued that the District Court had failed to take into consideration the change of circumstance that took place in October 2014, in the form of concrete commitments made by Somali authorities to the Dutch government to cooperate in the forced return of a limited number of Somalian nationals to Somalia. This cooperation agreement resulted in the actual deportation of three Somalis to Mogadishu in November and December 2014. The Council of State agreed with the Secretary of State and, in view of the prospect of successful deportation within a reasonable period of time, affirmed the lawfulness of the applicant’s detention preceding forced removal.
The Dutch Council of State’s decision preserves the Dutch Government’s controversial practice of forced removals to Somalia. In October 2014, Amnesty International criticized the Netherlands for its policy of sending failed asylum seekers to areas of Somalia controlled by the militant group al-Shabaab. According to a briefing on the subject, Amnesty International was “gravely concerned” that the forced removals were a violation of international law and the principle of non-refoulement, given that “fragile security conditions have not led to a fundamental, durable, and stable change” in Somalia. It also noted an increase in al-Shabaab activity in 2014, and that the group remained able “to stage lethal attacks even in the most heavily guarded parts of Mogadishu,” including the president’s residential palace, Villa Somalia. Al-Shabaab has continued to attack Government officials into 2015; the most recent example took place on February 20, 2015, and resulted in the deaths of two members of Parliament and the deputy mayor of Mogadishu, as well as several others. In light of the above, the Council of State’s decision to bolster the policy of forced removals to Somalia following the cooperation agreement between Dutch and Somali authorities appears to be yet another deviation from its obligations under international law.
Read the original judgment.
Anne Recinos is a former Fellow in Michigan Law’s Program for Refugee and Asylum Law. She is currently a third-year law student at the University of Michigan Law School.