In this article, we examine the relationship between important types of policies for asylum permit holders in the Netherlands and the improvement in their command of Dutch. As far as asylum policy is concerned, we find that participation in activities in the asylum seekers reception centre – and in particular, following Dutch language classes – contribute to an improvement in Syrian asylum permit holders’ command of Dutch. On the other hand, a prolonged period of stay and frequent relocations between reception centres are not favourable. Asylum permit holders who have successfully completed the civic integration programme have a better command of the language than asylum permit holders who are still undergoing the programme. An important finding is that there seems to be a sort of double deficit in the area of civic integration: not only do the elderly and lower educated make less progress in learning Dutch, but they are also the ones more likely to receive a dispensation from the civic integration requirement, which places them at a further disadvantage. Third, we find that early participation in the labour market or as a volunteer is also beneficial for language proficiency. © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press.

DOI: 10.1017/S0047279423000557
ISSN: 00472794