Court rules asylum seeker may work beyond 24-weekper year limit

An asylum seeker in possession of a work permit may work in the Netherlands longer than the maximum permitted period of 24 weeks per year, a court in Arnhem said on Tuesday in its final verdict over a lawsuit filed against the UWV benefits agency. The UWV previously rejected an application for a new work permit because the 24 week limit was exceeded, but the court said that was contrary to European law.

The lawsuit related to a Dutch employer and an asylum seeker from Nigeria who wanted to continue working together after their employment contract expired. But because the employee had already worked for his employer for 24 weeks, he was not granted a new work permit. He therefore waited 28 weeks before applying again. The UWV approved that application, but then after 24 weeks he was again denied access to the labor market.

According to the court, the UWV should not have done that, because it “unnecessarily restricts” access to the labor market. This means that the actions of the UWV are in conflict with the European Union’s Reception Conditions Directive. The directive mandates that member states of the European Union ensure that asylum seekers can truly access the labor market no later than nine months after they have submitted an asylum application. The court is of the opinion that this can be interpreted as “effective access,” and it is precisely in this area that the asylum seeker was limited by the UWV.

The UWV believed that working more can unintentionally send a signal that “permanent residence in the Netherlands is possible.” But the court disagreed.

“If the asylum seeker performs work during the asylum procedure, this will promote integration in the Netherlands,” said the court.

Another UWV argument failed as well, with the organization saying that it is more difficult to return to the country of origin when the employee further develops their employment relationship with the employer. For example, one of the conditions for a work permit is that the employee lawfully resides in the Netherlands. But since that is no longer the case if an asylum application is rejected, the court ruled finds that there cannot be an obstacle when it comes to returning to the country of origin.

Social Affairs and Employment Minister Karien van Gennip was not immediately available to comment on the ruling. Last week, research she commissioned showed that there are many benefits if asylum seekers are allowed to work for a longer period of time.

There are different views about this within the ruling. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD and also the CDA are reluctant. However, the second largest coalition party, D66, will soon put forward a proposal to allow asylum seekers to work longer than 24 weeks per year.

Reporting by ANP

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