Children's pardon not supposed to help many children, Justice Sec. says

It is "precisely the intention" that not many child asylum seekers qualify for the children's pardon, State Secretary Mark Harbers of Justice and Security said in a debate about Lili and Howick on Wednesday. The two Armenian kids were set to be deported on Saturday, after living in the Netherlands for 10 years, but got an exemption at the last minute, AD reports.

Harbers said that Lili and Howick's case is not setting a precedent for other child asylum seekers who have been living in the Netherlands fro a long time. According to Defense for Children, there are around 400 child asylum seekers in the country for whom this is the case. Harbers acknowledged that the children's pardon will not help them. "That is precisely the intention. It was meant in that way when it was implemented", he said, according to the newspaper.

The State Secretary pointed out that the temporary children's pardon in 2013 had a wide reach, but stricter rules apply now. On the one hand this is to create no false hope for child asylum seekers. On the other hand, it is to ensure that new asylum seekers don't stretch out their asylum procedure in order to qualify for the pardon.

Especially the left-wing opposition parties were critical of that. "What sense dos a children's pardon have if 95 percent of them do no qualify?" GroenLinks parliamentarian Bram van Oijk wanted to know. But the right-wing majority supports the government's stance. The PVV in particular was very critical about Lili and Howick being allowed to stay in the country. "You can train the lot endlessly. Everything is done to stretch things out. Everything with the help of lawyers, and the expense of taxpayers", MP Sietse Fritsma said.

Harbers previously announced that he is setting up an independent committee to investigate whether asylum procedures can be made shorter, so that child asylum seekers do not settle in the Netherlands for years. The PVV called this a "political trick" to push the discussion forward. Coalition party ChristenUnie also criticized how long this investigation will take - "at least a year", according to Harbers. 

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