Afghan embassy staff have to pay to stay in asylum seeker center | NOW

Former Afghan employees from the Dutch embassy in Kabul who were evacuated last year have to pay for their stay in asylum-seeking centres. They previously received severance pay from the Dutch government, who now have to pay for board and lodging. PvdA MP Kati Piri: “I find receiving severance pay in exchange for housing is very painful.”

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

“We are shocked, and also sad,” said one of the former employees of the Indonesian Embassy. “Some of us have worked for 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, former employees of the Dutch embassy were notified in the spring of 2021 of the scenario that they would leave work if the embassy was closed or downsized.

The ministry said it had notified the former employee several times

Embassy employees who have been notified of their dismissal are entitled to transitional payments, as is usual in the Netherlands. But now it seems they have to hand over some of the money for food and lodging costs to the Central Board for Admission of Asylum Seekers (COA). This is carried out on the basis of the “Self contribution to capital” scheme. The ministry also said that it had informed former employees several times about this.

Now that all former Afghan employees have citizen service numbers and bank accounts, the severance pay will be transferred. On May 31, the ministry indicated to them that it had to pay a contribution to the COA.

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

‘It’s by the rules, but so sad’

PvdA MP Kati Piri is outraged by the situation. “Instead of acting on the idea that we owe honor to these people, the rules are applied again heartlessly. And every morale is lost. The minister must quickly adjust this policy.”

Yannick Du Pont of the SPARK foundation, which guides 37 embassy employees to new jobs, is also unhappy with the situation. “Everything is according to the rules, but it is very sad. These people used to work for the Dutch government and were brought here by us. Some of them plan to use this money to start their own company. That’s not possible now. “

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

Pulled from the heat to him

Payment for food and lodging is not the only thing that has generated astonishment and anger among Afghans and their guards. They had been dragged from place to place in recent months: from Zoutkamp to Harskamp, ​​then back to Zoutkamp and then people scattered across the country. Some of them have moved as many as six times, according to Du Pont.

And that causes a huge delay. “People have to start all over again with language courses or driving lessons. We look for work, but then families are moved and job prospects are lost again.”

One of the Afghans, who wished to speak on condition of anonymity, had known for months that he could get a job at Randstad. Alone, he and his family are in a shelter in the east of the Netherlands. So he had to wait. “For example, fourteen high-paying jobs have been lost,” Dupont said. Six other former employees have already landed jobs, the other four will soon sign annual contracts if all goes well.

Strict rules lead to frustration

There was something extraordinary about that, Du Pont said: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted to act quickly, but this was thwarted by strict rules that the COA, municipalities, and other agencies had to enforce.

“I’m afraid of this,” said Du Pont. His foundation is also active in countries such as Turkey, where thousands of Syrians have been helped to find work in recent years. “Everything goes a lot slower here than in Turkey. There we find jobs, housing, everything goes a lot smoother,” Du Pont said.

What did he think was wrong? In the Netherlands it is not the individual who is central, but the system. “Asylum seekers come in second. They are toys of the system and politics. There are four or five different authorities in charge, none of them take the ball. As a result, individuals get lost.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told NU.nl that it had spoken “on several occasions at high levels” with the COA “in relation to former Afghan employees”.

Astrid Marshman

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