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Welcome in Utrecht is committed to refugees in Utrecht. Here you can find more information about this very diverse group of people.

Where do refugees come from?

Refugees come from all over the world and have various reasons for leaving their home and hearth. The largest groups of refugees in the Netherlands currently come from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Worldwide, most refugees come from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. The reasons why people are refugees is quite different, but think mainly of war, violence and persecution. Here you can find information about why the largest groups of refugees who apply for asylum in the Netherlands flee their country. On this UNHCR website, you will also find a lot of figures about the numbers of refugees worldwide.

What is the difference between asylum seekers, refugees and status holders?

There is often confusion about terms such as asylum seeker, refugee, status holder and migrant. Simply put, you could say that in the Netherlands the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) checks whether someone who has fled meets the admission criteria to be recognized as a refugee. As a refugee you can only actually apply for asylum in the Netherlands. During this investigation, the refugee is an ‘asylum seeker’. If the asylum seeker is indeed recognised, this person will receive a (temporary) residence status. Someone with such a residence permit is called a status holder. As a status holder you are entitled to a home in the Netherlands. However, because there are so few homes available, these status holders continue to live in an asylum seekers center (AZC) for a long time, while waiting for a home. In reality, it is all a bit more complicated, as you can read here on the UNHCR website.

Welcome in Utrecht usually chooses to use the term refugee in communication, regardless of whether or not people are (still) in procedure or have a residence permit. Anyone with a refugee background is welcome to participate in our activities.

How does an asylum procedure work?

For information about the asylum procedure, we would like to refer you to other organizations. Take a look at the websites of the national government and the website of the Dutch Council for Refugees. The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) also provides information about this.

People who have applied for asylum have different rights and obligations in the Netherlands. Children under the age of 18 can go to school and there are sometimes opportunities to work a few weeks a year. Yet in practice people have little to do while they are in the procedure, making it a passive and at the same time stressful period of waiting for many people. They lack the feeling of being in control of their own life, as well as the opportunity to develop themselves. For many people, life seems to stand still more or less during this period.

That is why the activities of Welkom In Utrecht are so important: you are approached as a person – and not as a refugee – and you can relax. You can also meet new people and get to know the area (better). Read here the experiences of Ashebir, Orrwa and Rima about what Welkom in Utrecht and our activities mean to them.

Why do Ukrainian refugees not apply for asylum?

Ukrainians who fled the war are in a different situation than other refugees. They have been given rights that often correspond to the rights that asylum seekers receive under the Reception Directive people with a Ukrainian passport can also travel for 180 days visa-free in the European Union and therefore they do not have to apply for asylum to legally reside in the Netherlands. Moreover, they are allowed to work in the Netherlands, without the restrictions that apply to other refugees. This gives them much more opportunities to build an independent life, which is important for self-esteem.

Where are refugees accomodated in Utrecht?

Ukrainians can decide for themselves where they stay in the Netherlands. If they cannot find shelter, they can report to the municipality that provides shelter for this group. In Utrecht, Ukrainian refugees are housed at various locations: in private homes, at locations of the Salvation Army, the Intermediate Facility and a shelter boat. In total it concerns around 1200 people.

Other refugees
Other refugees from other countries, shelter is arranged by the COA. These centres are located in Utrecht:

  • AZC Joseph Haydnlaan with space for a maximum of 515 residents, including a group of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
  • Emergency shelter Biltse Straatweg with space for 350 residents.
  • In De Meern is room for 20 single young asylum seekers.
  • From December 2022/January 2023, a (temporary) Asylum Seekers Centre is expected to open at Pahud de Mortangesdreef for a maximum of 300 refugees. This is done according to the Plan Einstein concept and that is why 30 to 60 young people from Utrecht will also be housed there.
  • A temporary crisis shelter location with space for 120 refugees has been at ‘t Goylaan since November 2022. This crisis shelter is there to relieve the pressure on the application center in Ter Apel. The crisis shelter is there for five months.

Refugees who have received a residence permit are entitled to their own homes. In the meantime, most of them are staying in an asylum seekers’ centre. This can take a long time due to the current housing shortage. See this website of the Dutch Council for Refugees for more information about the accommodation of status holders.

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