Afghan embassy staff must pay for stays in asylum centers | NOW

Former Afghan staff at the Dutch embassy in Kabul, who were evacuated last year, have to pay for their stay in asylum centers. They previously received severance pay from the Dutch state, from which they now have to pay for board and lodging. PvdA MP Kati Piri: “I find it extremely painful to take the severance pay in return for shelter.”

The 37 Afghan embassy staff and their families arrived in the Netherlands at the end of August last year. They were then transferred to the asylum accommodation in Zoutkamp. Two weeks after their arrival, a delegation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs arrived. The Afghans were given a letter of resignation.

“We were shocked and also sad,” said one of the former embassy staff. “Some of us had been working at the embassy for 20 years. We looked at each other and said, ‘What’s going on here?’

According to a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the former employees of the Dutch embassy were already informed in the spring of 2021 about the scenario that they would leave the job if the embassy closes or is downsized.

The ministry says it has informed former employees several times

The embassy staff who had been notified of their dismissal were – as is customary in the Netherlands – entitled to a transitional payment. But now it seems that they have to hand over part of the money for board and lodging to the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA). This is done on the basis of the scheme “Own contribution to capital”. The ministry also says that it has informed the former employees about this several times.

Now that all Afghan former employees have a citizen service number and a bank account, the severance pay is being transferred. On May 31, the ministry made them aware that they must therefore pay a contribution to the COA.

If an individual asylum seeker has more than 6,505 euros (for families more than 13,010 euros), this must be reported. The COA decides on a case-by-case basis how much to pay for board and lodging.

‘It’s by the rules, but it’s very disturbing’

PvdA MP Kati Piri is angry about the state of affairs. “Instead of acting on the idea that we owe these people a debt of honor, the rules are again heartlessly applied. And every moral sense is lacking. The minister must adjust this policy immediately.”

Yannick Du Pont from the SPARK Foundation, who guides the 37 embassy employees to new work, is also dissatisfied with the state of affairs. “It all fits the rules, but it’s very disturbing. These people have worked for the Dutch government and were brought here by us. A number of them planned to use this money to start their own company. It is not possible now. “

In the UK, the campaign started immediately after the evacuations in August last year Operation Warm welcome started for Afghans who have worked for the British government. According to Du Pont, there is “not much noticeable” of similar support in the Netherlands.

Towed from hot to her

The payment for board and lodging is not the only thing that is astonishing and indignant among the Afghans and their companions. They have been dragged from one place to another in recent months: from Zoutkamp to Harskamp, ​​then back to Zoutkamp, ​​and then people are scattered across the country. Some of them have been moved a full six times, according to Du Pont.

And that leads to big delays. “People need to start over with their language course or driving lessons. We find jobs, but then families move and the job prospects are gone again.”

One of the Afghans, who only wants to speak anonymously, has known for months that he can get a job in Randstaden. Alone, he and his family are in a shelter in eastern Holland. So he is forced to wait. “For example, fourteen well-paid jobs have already been lost,” Dupont said. Six other former employees have already found a job, four others will soon sign an annual contract if all goes well.

Strict rules lead to frustration

There is something wonderful about it, says Du Pont: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants to act quickly, but it is frustrated by the strict rules that COAs, municipalities and other institutions must implement.

“I’m scared of this,” Du Pont said. His fund is also active in countries like Turkey, where thousands of Syrians have been helped to find jobs in recent years. “It all goes much slower here than in Turkey. There we find work, housing, it all goes much smoother,” says Du Pont.

What does he think is wrong? In the Netherlands, it is not the individual who is central, but the system. “Asylum seekers are in second place. They are a toy for the system and politics. There are four or five different authorities that are responsible, no one takes the ball. As a result, the individual gets lost.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informs NU.nl that it has spoken “on several occasions at a high level” with COA “in relation to Afghan former employees”.

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