The Netherlands will speed up family reunification procedures for people in Gaza Strip

THE HAGUE - The Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) will speed up the decision-making process for family reunification applications from Palestinians in the Netherlands with relatives in Gaza, the service told NOS. The IND is working on around ten applications involving several dozen family members in the Gaza Strip, mainly partners and minor children. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also investigating whether it can help this group leave Gaza if the IND approves their application. 

How long these applications will take is impossible to say, an IND spokesperson told the broadcaster. “That depends, for example, on the complexity of the application and whether or not identity documents are present,” the spokesperson said. The decision period for a family reunification request is typically 90 days, but some take over a year. 

Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland and asylum lawyer Wil Eikelboom called it unique that the IND is speeding up these applications. “How long it takes the IND to process such an application partly depends on the IND’s capacity, but it also depends on how much evidence there is. For example, are there birth certificates that prove you are indeed related? If not, a DNA investigation must be done, which could delay it,” said Eikelboom. “In the case of Gaza, such a DNA test can only be done at the embassy in Cairo, so you have to cross the border.” 

In the best case, the IND will approve applications within a few weeks. But that does not automatically mean that these Palestinians can leave the besieged Gaza Strip and flee to the Netherlands. The border between Gaza and Egypt opens only occasionally for Palestinians with a foreign passport who are on an evacuation list. To date, 26 people with a Dutch passport have been able to leave Gaza in this way. As far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows, another 14 Dutch people are still trapped there. 

So far, the Ministry has not helped people with an approved family reunification request to leave Gaza because they do not meet the established criteria. “Due to the exceptional, very distressing, and dangerous circumstances in Gaza, we are currently examining whether we can expand these criteria to also help children and family members who have a positive decision from the IND for an application for a residence permit in the context of family reunification, but don’t have it in their hands yet,” a spokesperson for the Ministry told NOS. 

The Ministry stressed that it has no influence on “who will be on the final list for the Rafah Border Crossing.” It “can only provide names.” And due to international agreements, these can’t be “people without a link with the Netherlands.” 

A few weeks in Gaza currently could be a death sentence. But the IND can’t go any faster because it has many more emergency procedures to process, the Ministry spokesperson said. “A few weeks is much faster than a few months.” 

Since the Hamas terrorist groups committed attacks in Israel on October 7 and Israel retaliated, at least 11,470 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. That includes thousands of children. The death toll has not been updated in days due to the collapse of Gaza’s health system, which collected the data, Al Jazeera reported. The official death toll in Israel from the Hamas attacks stands at over 1,200 people. Hamas also took around 200 hostages. 

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