Asylum seeking kids falling through the cracks, says advocate

Child asylum seeker (Photo: Staff Sgt. Chris Fahey/Wikimedia Commons)Child asylum seeker (Photo: Staff Sgt. Chris Fahey/Wikimedia Commons)

Children's Ombudsman Marc Dullaert is very critical about the care child asylum seekers receive in the Netherlands. Especially the emergency shelters are inadequate and the long asylum procedure harms a child's well being, he writes in the 40 page report "Waiting for your future. Children in emergency shelters in the Netherlands", which was published on Thursday.

"If we do  not give these children the care, education and home they need, they will end up with a disadvantage that they may never catch up", according to Dullaert.

The Children's Ombudsman is concerned about how many times child asylum seekers are moved from shelter to shelter. "Due to the lack of reception places, many children are sheltered in temporary locations and must often move as a result. Whereas stability and peace is are particularly important for asylum children. Moving seven or eight times was no exception in 2015, sometimes even ten or eleven times."

Dullaert also finds it unacceptable that newcomers must wait at least seven months before their asylum procedure start. And that it can sometimes take 18 months before a decision is made on the asylum application, or even up to 24 months if a family reunification procedure is also involved. "It is very harmful for children to be in uncertainty about their won situation and the situation of relatives abroad for so long. With this we only cause these children more damage", he writes.

Dullaert recommends that those involved work on improving the situation for children in emergency shelters and that the number of moves be reduced. He also thinks it a good idea to put an end to large-scale emergency shelters and work on initiatives for small shelters for families and unaccompanied minors.

Earlier this week mayors Mark Buijs of Boxtel and Jan Hamming of Heusden also called for smaller asylum shelters, saying that shelters with between 50 and 100 people living in them will give asylum seekers a face and encourage the community to rally around them. The central agency for the reception of asylum seekers responded that it is open to the suggestion, but only if municipalities who opt for small shelters put extra effort into finding homes for refugees with residency permits.

Last week Marlou Schrover, professor of migration history at Leiden University, warned that while small shelters may seem like a great idea at the moment, they come with their own set of problems.