Dutch MPs want to make leaving kids abroad punishable

Child playing with toy airplane
Child playing with toy airplanePhoto: AlexLipa/DepositPhotos

Every year hundreds of Dutch children are left abroad by their parents. With the summer vacation around the corner, a majority in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, is calling on the government to make it punishable to leave your children in a foreign country, RTL Nieuws reports.

Last year the the national center for forced marriages and abandonment LKHA received 39 reports of children being left abroad by their parents. "But the actual number of abandonments is much higher. Sometimes victims do not dare to report it. Or the child who is left behind cannot report it because he has no phone, for example", Diny Flierman of the LKHA said to the broadcaster. Based on research, the center estimates the total number of children left abroad between 180 and 800.

These kids are taken abroad under the guise or of a vacation or a family visit, and are then left there. This most often happens in countries in North Africa, West Africa and the Middle East, according to the broadcaster. "For example, parents opt for this because they think their child is too westernized. The child is sent to an aunt or grandmother to learn the norms and values of the parent's country of origin", Flierman said. 

Parents also sometimes leave their kids abroad because they think their child is unmanageable, according to Flierman. "Parents see abandonment as a temporary solution to the problems at home." In most cases, parents are convinced that this is the best option for the child, or see no other solution. But sometimes their intentions are less good, for example leaving their child to get married or for genital mutilation, according to RTL. 

Abandonment is almost always very traumatic for the child involved. The Tweede Kamer therefore wants to make it punishable. Currently leaving a child abroad is not punishable in itself, only if it is paired with coercion or violence. "As government, we must act against this", GroenLinks parliamentarian Kathalijne Buitenweg said. "Children are being left in places where they have no future."

Flierman does not know whether criminalization will reduce the number of victims. "Children are often very loyal to their parents. If you make it punishable, children who have experienced it may not dare to report it."