Stimulating deportation: Crimmigration and foreign national prisoners in the Netherlands

J. Brouwer*

Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology, Leiden Law School, The Netherlands,

In recent years the Dutch government has repeatedly lowered the threshold for terminating a foreigner’s lawful residency on the basis of a criminal conviction. As a result, more immigrants that are caught up in the criminal justice system face the threat of deportation at the end of their prison sentence. For reasons of efficiency, these immigrants are imprisoned in an all foreign national prison, where migration staff works towards their expulsion.

Since April 2012 these foreign national prisoners without a residence status are furthermore no longer eligible for provisional release, unlike Dutch prisoners who enjoy this right after serving two third of their sentence. Instead, the only possibility of prematurely ending their imprisonment is through the so-called SOB-measure (Strafonderbreking, roughly translating as ‘punishment interruption’). An important aim of this measure is to stimulate criminal foreigners to leave the Netherlands. Therefore, SOB is only possible under the condition that the sentence is final – so no more appeals pending – and the person concerned actually leaves the Netherlands. If he is subsequently caught in the Netherlands again he will have to serve the remaining sentence. For sentences up to three years SOB is possible after serving half of the sentence, for longer sentences after two thirds.

Fitting within the wider trend of crimmigration, the SOB-measure employs elements from criminal law in order to establish migration control-related goals. In the process of doing so, it raises important questions about the fairness and equality of punishment. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in the only all foreign national prison in the Netherlands, this paper aims to shed light on the implications of crimmigration processes for unauthorized migrants in penal settings.


Jelmer Brouwer is a PhD-Candidate at at the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology at Leiden University. He is currently a visitor at the Border Crossing Observatory at Monash University. His research focusses on the intersections of crime control and migration control in both policing and prison settings.


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