Is Eric van der Burg Turning His Back on 2,900 Souls?

We dissect the letter sent by Secretary Eric van der Burg to 2,900 non-Ukrainian nationals in the Netherlands. Learn how this decision contradicts EU Law, particularly Directive 2001/55/EC, which advocates for equitable protection.

The war in Ukraine has displaced millions, leading to an unprecedented refugee crisis. European nations, including the Netherlands, have generously opened their doors to Ukrainian refugees. However, Eric van der Burg, the Secretary of Justice and Security, seems to be neglecting a crucial segment: the 2,900 non-Ukrainian nationals who also fled Ukraine due to the conflict and were previously granted temporary protection in the Netherlands.

The protection termination letter sent by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) on behalf of outgoing Secretary van der Burg, set to be effective on September 4, 2023, spells out a grim reality for us. It specifies an end to our temporary protection status, meaning no accommodation, no food or living expenses, and no medical coverage. The crucial question here is, how does this decision align with EU Law?

EU Law and the Principle of Equitable Protection

Under EU Law, particularly Directive 2001/55/EC, temporary protection is supposed to be a mechanism for responding to mass influxes of displaced persons in a manner that ensures equitable treatment. The Directive underscores the need for European Union member states to extend protection without “descending into technical distinctions that may dilute its guiding principles.” Secretary van der Burg’s decision appears to be in direct contradiction to these guidelines.

What Happens When We Ignore the Law?

Flouting EU Law isn’t merely an ethical or humanitarian issue; it can have severe legal repercussions for the Dutch Government. EU institutions may initiate infringement procedures, which can lead to significant financial penalties. Additionally, ignoring a segment of the displaced population based on their nationality may also violate the 1951 Refugee Convention, which could further tarnish the Netherlands’ standing in the international community.

Humanitarian Cost

At the heart of this issue are real human lives — 2,900 individuals who left their homes due to an armed conflict. Protection should be universal concepts that transcend the boundaries of nationality. Ignoring this vulnerable segment undermines the very ethos of the principle of protection — focusing on the human experience over administrative classifications.

Moral Imperative

Notwithstanding the legal consequences, one cannot overlook the ethical dimensions of this decision. The termination of temporary protection for us, many of whom have already endured indescribable hardships, magnifies our suffering manifold. Not to mention, the psychological impact of such a drastic change can lead to long-term mental health issues.

What Can Be Done?

The Dutch Government should reconsider its position, keeping in line with EU law and its own historical precedents of offering sanctuary. There’s still time to right this wrong before the September 4 deadline. As concerned group, it is our moral and legal obligation to speak up and advocate for equitable treatment of all refugees, irrespective of nationality.

In closing, the letter from Eric van der Burg poses severe questions on multiple fronts — legal, ethical, and humanitarian. It’s high time we address them before irreversible damage is done to our souls and to the Netherlands’ reputation as a champion of human rights.

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