From reception to integration of asylum migrants

By focusing simultaneously on housing, language acquisition, training and work, public authorities will minimise the amount of valuable time lost in integrating asylum migrants. This is stated in the Policy Brief No time to lose: from reception to integration of asylum migrants, a joint publication of the SCP, the WODC and the WRR.

Attention is currently focused mainly on the problems relating to the local reception of new groups of asylum seekers. At the same time, however, policymakers face a second fundamental challenge, namely the integration into Dutch society of asylum migrants who have been granted a residence permit. This policy brief focuses on this category of asylum migrants, who are referred to as permit holders.

The policy brief is based in part on a unique cohort study into the position of 33,000 registered asylum migrants who were granted a residence permit in the Netherlands between 1995 and 1999 and who remained in the Netherlands until at least 2011. In addition, a survey of current practices relating to the integration of status holders was carried out in eleven municipalities: Alkmaar, Amersfoort, Amsterdam, The Hague, Deventer, Eindhoven, Goes, Heerenveen, Nijmegen, Rotterdam and Zwolle.


The most important conclusions to be drawn from the recent past are:

  • Many permit holders are in a disadvantaged position in the labour market and are only very slowly making up the arrears in relation to other groups. After two years in the Netherlands, only a quarter of asylum migrants have a paid job of more than eight hours a week. After five years, half of the asylum migrants have a job of more than eight hours a week (see appendix: figure 1).
  • The registered crime rate among young, single men is higher than in the rest of the population. The same applies with respect to asylum migrants. However, the registered crime rate among permit holders is lower than among native Dutch persons with the same profile (such as age, gender and single) (see appendix: figure 2).

The category of permit holders is highly dynamic. A substantial minority leave the Netherlands again after a period of time. But a large number remain in the country for a lengthy period.

Six recommendations

These conclusions and the survey conducted in eleven municipalities lead to the conclusion that there is no time to lose in accelerating the process of integrating permit holders. It is essential to avoid a situation where a large number of permit holders become dependent on social assistance benefits for lengthy periods, as occurs too often at present (see appendix: table 1). The policy brief contains the six following recommendations.

  • Strengthen the role of municipalities
    With the new policy on civic integration (introduced on 1 January 2013), the role of the municipalities in directing the process of integration disappeared. A more active role by the municipalities is required, however, to accelerate the process of integration and to bring together the relevant parties.
  • Make better use of the period spent in the asylum centres
    The time that asylum migrants spend in the asylum centres could be used more effectively. Early identification of their level of education, professional qualifications and work experience would be conducive to their rapid integration.
  • Accelerate the process of housing permit holders
    The housing stock needs to be expanded as quickly as possible. This will call for the development both of forms of independent housing and of temporary and shared accommodation. Important principles for effective integration in a neighbourhood are housing on a small scale, dispersal of permit holders and a good mix of residents. Displacement of residents by permit holders in the social housing sector must also be avoided.
  • Choose a parallel approach
    To sustain the pace of the integration process, a parallel approach is preferable to a sequential approach. It is important to adopt approaches in which language acquisition, finding housing, receiving schooling and searching for work occur simultaneously rather than successively.
  • Encourage permit holders to obtain a Dutch diploma
    A procedure for the rapid recognition of diplomas is very important. Educational institutions are also taking relevant initiatives to improve the fit between their programs and the background of permit holders, often in the form of a year-long preparatory course during which permit holders improve their knowledge of the Dutch language and prepare for the course they will start in the following year.
  • Take account of the availability of work
    In principle, permit holders are dispersed throughout the country without regard to whether there is any work available for them locally. It is worth considering improving the match between permit holders and regional labour markets.

The WRR-Policy Brief No time to lose: from reception to integration of asylum migrants is a joint publication of the SCP, the WODC and the WRR and was written by Professor Godfried Engbersen (WRR), Professor Jaco Dagevos (SCP), Roel Jennissen (WODC), Linda Bakker (SCP/EUR) and Arjen Leerkes (WODC), with the assistance of Arend Odé and Jeanine Klaver of Regioplan.

Note for the editor

Policy Briefs are short publications which reflect on a current policy theme on the basis of scientific knowledge. The content reflects the views of the authors.

About The Netherlands Institute for Social Research

The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) is an interdepartmental institute that conducts research into social aspects of government policy. The SCP reports to the government, both houses of parliament, the ministries and public and private organisations. The SCP formally falls under the auspices of the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport.

About The Research and Documentation Centre

The Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) is an independent agency of the Ministry of Security and Justice that conducts policy-oriented research. It combines independent research with a constructive relationship with the ministry, its chain partners and relevant external stakeholders. Its reports and other publications are published online and are available free of charge.

About The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy

The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) is an independent advisory body that provides solicited and unsolicited advice to the government on issues that are of great importance to society. The WRR’s reports are multidisciplinary and extend beyond individual sectors and departments. They are concerned with the direction of government policy for the longer term.