'Volunteers have already told me how useful the work instructions are’

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Demi Meijerink.jpg

Demi Meijerink is a Social Legal Services student. She conducted research at the Council for Refugees Emmen into asylum applications with the motive of conversion and apostasy. Based on this research, she drew up a work instruction for volunteers who prepare asylum seekers for the hearing interview with the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND).

The United Nations Convention on Refugees stipulates that refugees and asylum seekers may not be returned to a country where they would be at risk. The Convention also sets out the criteria to be met by a person wishing to be considered a refugee. For example, there must be a ground for persecution. One such ground is religion. Asylum seekers can apply for asylum in the Netherlands on the basis of conversion, apostasy, atheism and the deepening of faith. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service assesses these applications, which it does by interviewing the asylum seekers in question. Volunteers from the Dutch Council for Refugees help asylum seekers prepare for these interviews. 'IND employees use work instructions in these interviews', Demi says. 'In my research, I studied the IND work instructions and converted them into work instructions for the volunteers.

Work instructions

Some of them have no legal training at all and might have a nursing background, for example. The work instructions enable them to immerse themselves in the subject and go through the questions that asylum seekers can expect step by step. For example, anyone who has converted to another religion will be expected to explain their reasons for doing so to the IND and what the process involved. They must also be able to demonstrate that they have some knowledge of their new faith, be able to explain what it means to them and what effect is has on their day-to-day lives. I was amazed by the huge number of questions asylum seekers have to answer. They have to jump through a lot of hoops to prove their credibility. And the questions aren’t easy either. I don't know if I would be able to answer them. Asylum seekers might also feel ashamed or frightened. Their views aren’t tolerated in their own countries, so it's tough to discuss them openly with someone you don't know.'

Better preparation 

Thanks to the work instructions, volunteers at the Dutch Council for Refugees can now prepare asylum seekers for their interviews better. 'Volunteers have already told me how useful the work instructions are. It’s a digital document now, easy for volunteers to access, and it also contains links to relevant background information. Everyone seems to be very happy with it.' 

This story has been taken from the Rechtstreeks magazine, which is published by the School of Law (SIRE). If you would like a copy of the magazine, please contact Selma Veltens at [email protected]