Amsterdam calls for children's pardon

Protest against the deportation of Armenian kids Howick and Lili, 12 Aug 2017
Protest against the deportation of Armenian kids Howick and Lili, 12 Aug 2017Photo: @DefenceChildren / Twitter

The Amsterdam city council wants asylum children who've been living in the Netherlands for more than five years, to be able to stay in the country because this is now their home. The council called on Mayor Femke Halsema to ask State Secretary Mark Harbers of Justice and Security to implement a so-called children's pardon, Het Parool report.

What prompted this call is the case of Armenian kids 13-year-old Howick and 12-year-old Lili. After living in the Netherlands for 10 years, the two kids were set to be deported to Armenia on Saturday. Harbers decided to make an exception for them at the last minute. Their mother was deported last year.

The motion was filed by ChristenUnie councilor Don Ceder and was supported by a vast majority of the Amsterdam council - ChristenUnie, GroenLinks, D66, PvdA, SP, PvdD, DENK, PvdE and Bij1. 35 of the 45 seats on the Amsterdam city council supported the call for a children's pardon. 

"Over the past weekend we have seen how urgent it is that we quickly find a good solution for these children. I am pleased that a large majority of the council believes that Amsterdam should take its responsibility and plead with the State Secretary for a solution other than deportation", Ceder said to the newspaper. "As far as I am concerned, this also means faster clarity during a procedure and a merciful application. Our message to the State Secretary when it comes to rooted children that are likely to be deported: they are already home."

On Monday Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the children's pardon will not be extended. He called the fact that Lili and Howick are allowed to stay a "unique statement in a unique case".

Harbers is also not planning a children's pardon, it seems. He is appointing an independent committee to investigate asylum seekers who stay in the Netherlands for a long time even after their asylum application was rejected, he said in a letter to parliament on Tuesday, ANP reports. The fact that Howick and Lili are allowed to stay in the Netherlands does not mean that the government is deviating from the coalition agreement, he said. He stressed that "the definitive regulation for long-term resident children" will be maintained.