In 2021, the number of incidents and crimes among residents of reception centers of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) was lower than in the previous year, despite the fact that more asylum seekers stayed at COA locations. This is apparent from a Wednesday shared with the House of Representatives report of the Scientific Research and Documentation Center (WODC), part of the Ministry of Justice and Security.
Last year, COA registered 5,900 incidents, while in 2020 a further 6,300 incidents were registered by residents of COA locations. This concerns verbal and non-verbal violence, but ‘self-destructive actions’ and ‘suicide threat’ are also registered as incidents.
Need further investigation
The researchers suspect that the number of incidents and crimes is not related to the number of people in reception locations, but “more likely” to “the length of time people spend in COA shelters”. Further research is needed to gain more insight into this relationship, the researchers say. In 2021, the number of ‘unique aliens’ staying at COA locations was about a third higher than a year earlier: at least 66,000 people – status holders, failed asylum seekers or asylum seekers – stayed in one or more asylum seekers’ centers in that year.
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The number of crimes committed by COA residents also decreased last year compared to the previous year: from 4,500 to 4,000. In about three quarters of the cases it concerns property crimes, in 13 percent of the cases it concerns violent crimes.
Figures on incidents registered by COA and crime figures among asylum seekers are politically sensitive. In 2019, then State Secretary Harbers van Asiel (VVD) resigned because his ministry had not explicitly reported serious crimes committed by asylum seekers. The report was previously drawn up by the ministry in collaboration with parties from the migration and criminal law chain. As of this year, the research has been transferred to the WODC in order to limit “discussions” about its design and to “provide it with a scientific basis”.
Other methodological choices
Researcher Sanne Noyon of the WODC explains that a number of different methodological choices were made this year than in previous years. For example, only incidents were considered when the foreign national in question was living at a COA reception center. Previously, incidents and crimes by people who were in between different forms of shelter or had already left the shelter, according to Noyen.
In the case of crimes, criminal cases handled by the Public Prosecution Service have been counted, instead of criminal offenses, as was the case in previous reports. The same method is used in the report for the years 2017 to 2021, so that the figures from last year can be compared with previous years.
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The results will be discussed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. A more in-depth report will follow after the summer, in which the researchers intend, among other things, to look at the links between incidents and crimes. “If there actually appears to be a link between involvement in incidents and criminal behavior, this makes the question of who is involved in incidents and how to prevent this all the more important,” says researcher Noyen.