According to the Netherlands immigration minister this past Monday, there were over 59,000 people who applied for asylum last year in the Netherlands and Dutch and authorities have now identified 30 of them as war crimes suspects with a third of them from Syria.
Klaas Dijkhoff released the numerical information in a letter to address the increasingly heated public debate over immigration that has recently been stoked by crime spikes including the recent murder of a young woman working in an asylum center where arrivals from war zones across the Middle East were being housed.
The letter was in response to specific inquiries from the Dutch parliament, where many have been calling on the government to send back migrants who are suspected of atrocities, or break Dutch laws. Some are also calling for a halt to admitting asylum seekers until proper vetting methods can be put in place.
Ten of the suspected war criminals were from Syria and the rest from Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Georgia and other countries, he added, without going into further details. Many citizens of these countries are not even considered to be eligible for asylum and are considered "economic migrants; moving into Europe for welfare and cash benefits and to improve their job opportunities.
According to western news sources, the Dutch news site AD reported that the Ministry of Security and Justice "could not disclose what groups the suspects were part of while in Syria, so they could have been working either for the Assad regime or the opposition."
While AD also wrote that it was "not likely" the suspects had been part of ISIS and that Dijkhoff had reported that so far, "only one person had been arrested for allegedly belonging to a terrorist group," they could not rule out any possibility. The report also said that it could not say what specific types of war crimes the Syrians were suspected of because of "privacy concerns."
"It's an absolute outrage that any privacy concerns of a suspected war criminal or terrorist could outweigh the very real concerns that the Dutch people have over their own security, but this is why so many Dutch people no longer trust the government," said "Luuk" who asked to remain anonymous due to his work close to the government.
Dijkhoff defended the presence of the Syrians and said "they can't be sent back to Syria because our laws and international treaties prohibit any form of forced repatriation to a country where there is ongoing conflict."
A backlash against immigration has boosted the Netherlands' far-right anti-Islam Freedom party, whose leader Geert Wilders is regularly rated the country's most popular politician. Recent rallies in favor of stopping further migration into the Netherlands have been hugely attended while counter demonstrations in favor of migration have been small and few.
Many Dutch have been speaking out in online forums and in letters to local newspapers protesting the government's policies of allowing in so many migrants and calls for exiting the European Union have been growing both in the Netherlands and other northern EU member nations including the well publicized "Brexit" in the United Kingdom.