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Home Refugee Buddy Answers


Here you find answers to frequently asked questions.

With this Refugee Buddy App we try to provide up to date and relevant information to refugees and asylum seekers in the Netherlands. Please share this information with refugees who don’t have access to this app. If you have any suggestions or comments to make this app better, please let us know at: refugeebuddy@redcross.nl

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Also see About the Netherlands/Useful web links for all kinds of organisations that might come in handy.


Q    What do I do in case of an emergency?
A    Call 112 for an ambulance, the fire brigade or the police.
When you’re at a COA location: alarm the reception desk.
Also see buttons First Aid and About the Netherlands/ Dutch Police at this app


Q    Where do I find a doctor?
A    Within a couple of days after your arrival you will hear who your general practitioner                 f    family doctor) is. You always need to make an appointment first.
You can also call the GC A Practice line: 0 881 122 112, they will help you to get an appointment See also: Health/Medical Assistance and Prevention at this app

Q    Does going to a doctor cost me any money?
A    No, it doesn’t. In a couple of days after your arrival you will receive a health card.
          You need to bring this card to medical appointments.

Q    What if I don’t speak any English or Dutch?
A    That’s no problem, there are interpreters available at the medical services

Q    Where do I get medicine?
A    Over-the counter drugs, such as paracetamol against headaches, ear drops etc.
           are for sale at the pharmacist, drugstore or supermarket.
Other drugs are only available on prescription by the General Practitioner. With this prescription drugs are only available at the pharmacist.

Q     What can I do myself when I feel ill or have an injury?
A     See button First Aid/Self Help to treat minor injuries or illness

Q    I’m pregnant, what do I need to do?
A    When you are pregnant, you will be provided with an obstetrician. The obstetrician will assist you during your pregnancy, the birth, and the days following the birth. You must make an appointment with the obstetrician yourself. COA can provide you with assistance in that regard. It is important that you do so as soon as possible. Doing so in a timely manner ensures the proper monitoring of your health and that of the baby's.

Q    Where do you go when you have mental health problems?
A    Everyone who has lived through a crisis situation, like when you need to flee your country, will most probably experience extreme stress. Such stress usually causes unpleasant reactions.
It is normal to react when experiencing an abnormal situation. This is important to remember when you or your relatives experience stress reactions.
At this app you find more information about coping with stress at: Health/Mental Health Care. It’s always good to talk to your family doctor or the Asylum Seekers Health Centre (GC A) about your problems. They can help you.


Q    Where can I follow the news about my country of origin?
A    At this app in the chapter News, you find news channels and websites

Q    Where can I read news that is important to asylum seekers and refugees in the Netherlands?
A    When there is important news you will receive a message at this app. At the News button in this app you will also find Dutch news channels. Like the in English written website www.dutchnews.nl

Asylum Procedure
Q     I want to apply for asylum. What is the procedure?
A    There’s no short answer to that unfortunately. Please read all about this subject at the button Asylum in this app.

Q    How long does it take before I know whether I will get asylum or not?
A   Currently you have to wait at least seven months, before the IND can investigate your case. It cannot be said beforehand how long this investigation will last. Owing to the arrival of a large number of asylum seekers in the Netherlands the overall period in which the IND is required to make a decision has been extended to 15 months, with the option of extending that period by another three months if required to make the right decision.Q    Who can I turn to for help?

A    You can turn to VluchtelingenWerk Nederland (Dutch Council for Refugees).
This is an independent human rights organisation. Employees of VluchtelingenWerk visit the crisis shelter and you can ask them for help. They cannot make your waiting time shorter or the procedure go any faster. But will help you by answering your questions or offer practical help. See: About the Netherlands/Organisations

Q     When do I get a house of my own?
A    At the moment there are not enough houses available. Chances are that you have to go to a temporary accommodation again or share housing with other people, even when you are a status holder.
There are possibilities to stay with friends or relatives who can receive some financial compensation for this. This is the so called ZZA-arrangement.
In some towns the council arranges private rental houses. The so called GZZA arrangement. COA will be able to inform you about this.
Read more at Asylum/Housing and Social Support

School and study

Q     Can I start or continue a study?
A    The Foundation for Refugee Students UAF supports and counsels highly educated refugees. They advise refugees about their choice of studies and counsel them while
they are studying and looking for a job after graduation. If necessary, they offer financial support for their studies. At their website https://www.uaf.nl/home/english you can check whether you meet the criteria.

Q    Are the diploma’s or degrees I obtained in my home country of the same value in the
A     This is indicated in an international ‘credential evaluation’. It contains a comparison of a foreign diploma or study program with the Dutch educational system.
Here you can read more about it: http://www.idw.nl/international-credential-evaluation.html

Q    Are my children allowed to go to school?
A    Yes, even more so, all children in the Netherlands are obliged to go to school from the age of 5 years on. Also children of asylum seeking families go to school. If they are 3 months in the Netherlands (and between 5 and 16 years old) they have to go to school. Every asylum seekers centre (AZC) is connected to a primary school

Q    Where can I learn Dutch?
A    At Asylum/Education and work in this app, you can read all about Dutch courses.

Q     Can I work as a volunteer?
A     Yes, you can Everyone who has a foreigner’s identity document (the so called W-document) is allowed to do voluntary work. You will get the W-document during the registration term in Ter Apel.

Q    Am I allowed to work before my procedure?
A    No, you are not

Q    Am I allowed to work during my procedure?
A    Yes you are, but only under certain conditions. Read more in this app at:     Asylum/Work and education

Q    How do I find a job?
A    Vluchtelingenwerk can help you to find a job. Go to their website to find the nearest office. www.vluchtelingenwerk/regio


Q    Can I freely practise my religion?
A    Anyone has the right to practise his or her religion. It is stated in the first chapter of the Constitution. But in the Netherlands religion is in general considered a personal matter which is not supposed to be propagated in public.
In this app at Location you can find churches and mosques near you.


Q    What do I do when I am discriminated against?
A    In the Constitution is stated that each inhabitant of the Netherlands has the right to equality and it i forbidden to discriminate anyone by gender, race, sexual     orientation, religious believes or age. If you are discriminated against you can report this to the police.

Dutch Police

Q    What are the tasks of Dutch police?
A    To maintain public order, offer assistance to people in need and to enforce criminal      law.

Q    Where can I report a crime?
A    Call 0900 – 8844 For the deaf: 0900 – 1844 (text phone) or go to the nearest     police station.

Q    Can I report a crime anonymously?
A    Yes you can, you can dial 0800 – 7000 for reporting crime anonymously.

There are special Police units for war crimes, human trafficking and other international crimes: please read more about this in the app at:  About the Netherlands/Dutch Police

Practical information
Q     Where do I find stores, a police station, the library?
A    In this app, at Locations, you can find useful places near you. Like health centre or bus stations. Make sure the ‘location service’ on your mobile phone is turned on.

Q    Do I get an allowance to pay for my groceries?
A    Not before your asylum procedure start. You only get a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and shaving gear.
When your asylum procedure has started, you will get a small weekly allowance for     food and clothing. Medical expenses are paid for. You will also get an assurance.

Q    What time do the shops open and close?
A    Most supermarkets open at 8 am and close at 8 pm; smaller ones may close at 6 pm
A lot of other stores (mobile phone stores for example) open at 10am and close at 5pm. In smaller villages shops are closed on Sunday, which is considered a ‘day of rest’.

Q     How does public transport work?
A    Go to Transport in this app to learn all about using the public transport

Q    When are the school holidays?
A        The Netherlands is divided in three parts who have at least the summer holidays on             different dates. To be sure, ask your children’s school or go to their website.

Q        Who can help me to find lost relatives and friends?
A        Go to Tracing at this app and find the organization that can help you.