Council of State – Asylum seekers right to work

We at the ACMRL are happy to observe the important decision by the Council of State reaffirming the rights of asylum seekers to be able to work for more than 24 weeks a year.

Many Member States in the European Union have enacted rules regarding access to their labour market for asylum seekers. The Dutch state does provide access to the labour market to asylum seekers but makes this extremely difficult in practice for asylum seekers to find a job. The law limited asylum seekers to only work for 24 weeks per year (see Article 6.2 Aliens Labour Decree), which meant that they had no access to the labour market for the remaining 28 weeks. According to the Dutch government and the Dutch employee insurance agency (UWV), this law prevented asylum seekers from gaining access to unemployment benefits as well as kept the permanent residency at a comfortable distance. As a result, asylum seekers encountered many obstacles when entering the labour market. This stretched the limits of EU law, which was affirmed by the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State. The Dutch 24-week requirement is contrary to European Union law. More specifically, the law compromised the purpose and the useful effect of the Reception Conditions Directive.

Currently, only 4% of the asylum seekers who entered the Netherlands between 2017 and 2021 are employed. Our colleague, Lieneke Slingenberg, in collaboration with Regioplan, showed with her insightful report the practical hurdles and limited opportunities faced by this community. Particularly, employers are not eager to contract an asylum seeker due the assumed administrative hurdles and because of the limited time they could be employed for (ECRE 2023). Often, employers seek long-term staff which the law does not allow for.

As highlighted by Slingenberg in her interview with the NOS, she expects that the Council of State’s judgment will lead to an increase in the number of employers who will hire asylum seekers. We are happy with this new development and that refugees get their right to work affirmed.

You can find the whole judgement here (nl):

You can read the report here (nl):

For further reading on this topic:

About the ruling in English: