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Council of State: ’24-week requirement’ asylum seekers in breach of European law

Today, the highest administrative court in the Netherlands, the Administrative Law Division of the Council of State (the Council of State), ruled in two judgments that the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) may no longer impose the requirement that asylum seekers can only work a maximum of 24 weeks per year.

According to the Council of State, this so-called ’24-week requirement’ violates European law, specifically the European Reception Directive. This is because the requirement hinders asylum seekers’ access to the Dutch labour market, while the Reception Directive aims to promote asylum seekers’ independence and facilitate their access to the labour market. In these cases, brought by two asylum seekers and their employers, reference is made to a report by research firm Regioplan demonstrating that the requirement is mainly a barrier for employers looking for long-term staff. The researchers found that the investment is too great for employers if they have to let staff go again after 24 weeks. This makes asylum seekers less attractive as employees.

The Council of State based its opinion partly on case-law from the EU Court of Justice which states that Member States are not allowed to adopt measures or conditions that detract from the purpose and useful effect of the Reception Directive. The Council of State declared the 24-week requirement therefore non-binding.

Following the rulings of the Council of State, the UWV has indicated that it will apply it immediately. This means that for asylum seekers, after six months after submitting an asylum application, a work permit can be applied for that allows them to work 52 weeks a year.

Employers are welcome to contact Everaert Advocaten for advice and assistance in applying for a work permit.

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