Foto omschrijving: Open dag in asielzoekerscentrum azc in Assen.

Executive summary

As of 2017, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) monitors all asylum seekers who have entered reception centres of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum seekers (COA) and status holders including family reunification applicants and their following family members. The fourth edition of the annual report on this cohort study sheds light on the recent influx of asylum seekers at COA reception centres as well as the composition of the newest group of status holders. Furthermore, this web publication provides an up-to-date account of how the status holders have fared who have received an asylum residence permit since 2014. Figures presented here include the inflow and outflow at COA reception centres, the waiting period for an asylum residence permit, housing, civic integration, household composition, family reunification, education, work and income, health care utilisation and crime. This research has been commissioned by the following Dutch ministries: Social Affairs and Employment; Justice and Security; Education, Culture and Science; and Health, Welfare and Sport.

Described below are recent developments in the new influx and duration of stay of asylum seekers at COA reception centres:

  • Inflow at COA reception centres down slightly as of 2018 – Over the first six months of 2019, roughly the same number of asylum seekers were taken in at COA reception centres as one year previously. Compared to the whole of 2017, the number had dropped slightly in 2018.
  • Again more asylum seekers from safe countries – There has been a rising influx from safe countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Turkey, especially as of 2018. In 2019, there was a remarkably high influx of Nigerian asylum applicants in particular.
  • Share of following family members further down – Family members joining the asylum applicant are more numerous among Syrians and Eritreans. Of the incoming Eritrean asylum seekers in 2017, a share of 59 percent were following family members. Among Syrians in particular, the share (as well as the absolute number) of following relatives dropped still further in 2019.
  • Relatively high share of young men – Again, over three-quarters of all asylum seekers are aged under 35 years at their time of arrival in the Netherlands. In 2019 the share of men rose to 66 percent, i.e. closer to the level in 2014; these were mainly young men.
  • More young men from Syria – The share of young men among Syrian asylum seekers increased to 60 percent in the first six months of 2019. This percentage is similar to that of the oldest cohort in 2014. In 2016–2017 in particular, the shares of women and younger children were higher than in previous years. This is largely due to a rising influx of family members from Syria in those two years.
  • More single men from Syria, more children from Eritrea – In 2019, 45 percent of all asylum seekers travelled to the Netherlands as a family. In 2017, this share stood at 60 percent. In 2018 and 2019, relatively more Syrian male asylum seekers travelled to the Netherlands by themselves. Among Eritreans it was the share of children that increased.
  • Fewer relocated asylum seekers during first 6 months at COA shelters – Asylum seekers arriving at COA shelters in 2015 moved to a different reception centre slightly more than once on average during the first six months of their stay. The number of relocations during this period has decreased progressively since then.
  • Larger shares of Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans granted an asylum residence permit after 12 months – There has been a substantial rise in the share of Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans who obtained a temporary asylum residence permit after 12 months at a COA reception centre. Shares range between 40 and 53 percent among these nationalities within the cohort arriving in 2017.
  • 475 asylum seekers still at COA shelters without a residence permit after 4.5 years – This does not necessarily mean that IND is still handling their applications. Some applicants remain in a reception centre after being rejected to await their departure, others continue their stay pending a court ruling after an appeal. Following a rejection, applicants may file another (second or subsequent) asylum application; for instance, when their situation has changed or because new information has become available about their country of origin.
  • Eritreans arriving in 2016 and 2017 remain at shelters more briefly, due to more family members – For those Eritreans who entered the Netherlands in 2016 and 2017, the situation did improve: in this group, 80 percent had been provided housing after twelve months. This is due to the fact that, in recent years, a considerable share of asylum seekers have been following family members.
  • Shorter stay at shelters for Afghans, more departure/return – The initial asylum application of Afghan asylum seekers is being rejected relatively often compared to e.g. Syrians and Eritreans. Furthermore, a relatively large share of the Afghan asylum seekers have departed after twelve months.
  • Fewer family members among recent cohorts – Residence permits (MVVs) are only issued to following family members if the application is filed by the permit holder within three months of obtaining the asylum residence permit. These MVVs are valid for 90 days only. Any following family members must travel to the Netherlands within 90 days from the date of issue.

Described below are recent developments in the housing and civic integration of status holders and their following family members as well as family reunification applicants:

  • Number of residence permits issued has declined further – As of 2017 we see a decline in the total number of residence permits issued. In this study, status holders also include the following family members who have obtained a (derived) asylum residence permit.
  • Top 5 nationalities has recently changed – Syrians and Eritreans have constituted the largest and second largest groups of status holders respectively. In 2019, the top 5 included nationals from Turkey and Yemen for the first time.
  • Fewer following family members among Syrian permit holders in particular – In 2014, 27 percent of all asylum resident permits were issued to a following relative. This share had gone up to 38 percent by 2018. Among Syrians in particular, the share of residence permits issued to following family members initially went up (from 32 percent in 2014 to 58 percent in 2017), but is now going down steeply (to 16 percent in the first half of 2019).
  • Average waiting time for Eritreans shortest in family reunification – Syrian and Eritrean family members obtain a residence permit relatively quickly. The relatively short waiting time for family reunification means the average waiting time has been reduced. Relatively many family members are included in the most recent cohort, of Eritreans in particular.
  • Minor regional differences – There are only minor regional differences between the various nationalities and cohorts as regards the location of their first living accommodation in the Netherlands. They still live evenly distributed across the country after one or two years following their departure from the reception centre.
  • Status holders increasingly found in urban areas – In the 2014 cohort, 52 percent were living in strongly or very strongly urbanised areas after two months; this had increased to 56 percent after another 46 months.
  • More children living at home among status holders – The increase in the shares of children living at home and couples (with or without children) among status holders is mainly due to the rising influx of following family members and status holders applying for family reunification.
  • More status holders enrolled in education – A growing number of people who obtained an asylum residence permit in 2014 are enrolled in education (37 percent in 2019). Even young people over the age of 18 and beyond compulsory school age are progressively likely to be in education as their duration of stay becomes longer.
  • Higher enrolment in MBO – Many status holders who leave secondary education move on to senior secondary vocational education (MBO). As of October 2019, 54 percent of all status holders in education who received an asylum residence permit in 2014 were enrolled in MBO.
  • Higher MBO levels – Initially, the majority of the 2014 cohort were enrolled in MBO Level 1. Since 2018, the share enrolled in MBO Level 2 has exceeded the share enrolled at Level 1.
  • 93 percent of the 2014 cohort have complied with the integration requirement – When merely taking into account those in the 2014 cohort with a civic integration requirement, 66 percent had passed the civic integration exam by October 2019; 26 percent obtained either a waiver or exemption. A share of 6 percent have not yet passed the exam, but have been given time to do so. Two percent have not passed the exam yet and have consequently exceeded the maximum time frame for civic integration.
  • Eritrean status holders catching up in terms of employment – In the 2014 cohort, 38 percent of all status holders aged 18 to 64 years were in employment after 4.5 years. Initially, Eritreans had the lowest share of status holders in employment, but after 4.5 years this had changed: 48 percent were in employment, now forming the highest share. Not only do we see a steadily rising labour participation rate, but the gaps in labour participation among the nationalities have also become narrower. The majority of status holders in employment are part-time workers (75 percent) while 88 percent hold a temporary contract.
  • Share of social assistance recipients declining further – 18 months after they obtained their asylum residence permit in 2014, 90 percent of all 18 to 64-year-olds in this group depend on social assistance benefits. Three years later – altogether 4.5 years after obtaining a residence permit – this share is down to 50 percent, with smaller differences between the nationalities.
  • High welfare dependency means few income differences – This is due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of status holders live on social assistance benefits, which are fixed amounts depending on the family situation.
  • Health care use stabilises – Of all status holders in the 2014 cohort aged 18 and over and not staying in COA shelters by the end of 2015, 80 percent had health care costs. Of this group, 77 percent actually consulted a GP and 23 percent merely registered with a GP. One year later, in 2016, nearly 95 percent of the status holders from the 2014 cohort had had health care costs related to the GP. Having health care costs means people were registered with a GP. Another year later, in 2017, health care use among this share had more or less stabilised. Health care use among Eritrean status holders saw the sharpest increase: whereas in 2015, 67 percent had GP-related health care costs, by 2016 this was 90 percent.
  • Share of young people in youth care increasing – Of all young people (aged 21 or under) who obtained a residence permit in 2014 or 2015 and who were no longer residing at a COA reception centre, approximately 3.5 percent were using some form of youth care in 2016. Two years later, this percentage had increased to 6 percent. This refers to care provided to young people and their parents in case of psychological, psychosocial or behavioural problems, a mental handicap or (parents’) parenting problems, custodial care of single minors, or juvenile rehabilitation.
  • Hardly any change in share of registered crime suspects – Male status holders are (still) relatively more likely to become criminal suspects than native Dutch men or men with a western migration background, but less likely compared to men with a non-western migration background.


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Nathalie Boot

Zoë Driessen

Corina Huisman

Luc Verschuren (projectleider)

Stephan Verschuren


We danken de medewerkers van de volgende instanties voor hun constructieve bijdrage aan deze editie van het Asielcohorten onderzoek:

Centraal Orgaan opvang asielzoekers (COA)

Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs (DUO)

Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst (IND)

Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid (JenV)

Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap (OCW)

Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid (SZW)

Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport (VWS)

Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM)

Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (SCP)

Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum (WODC)