Netherlands failing child asylum seekers: Inspectorates
The Dutch government does not take good care of children and young people in asylum shelters. As a result, minors face stress or even violence and have insufficient access to care and education. The Justice and Security Inspectorate and Healthcare and Youth Inspectorate came to this conclusion in a letter to State Secretary Eric van der Burg for Asylum. They call on him to intervene. The government announced additional measures on Friday, but it is not yet clear whether they’ll be enough.
Due to the tremendous pressure on asylum shelters, employees cannot provide adequate reception and the guidance they should. Despite warnings from the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) two months ago, little has improved. The shelter is “in a state of crisis” and only continues to operate thanks to the employees’ “enormous efforts and dedication.”
Over 10,000 children and teenagers are in asylum shelters, including 1,450 without parents or guardians. Many of them should have been given a normal home long ago because their asylum applications were granted over 14 weeks ago.
Children often stay in the overnight shelters for too long because they cannot enter the correct procedures. That shelter closes at 6:00 a.m., so they are often woken early. At regular shelters, minors often stay “weeks and sometimes months longer” than the permitted three to ten days. All this time, they have no proper access to education or care.
When the Inspectorates went to check the central reception location, they found three times as many unaccompanied minors as intended: 170 instead of 55. They aren’t cared for properly. Their rooms are dirty, they often can’t eat together, and there are unsafe situations when groups of children and young people fight with each other. There were even incidents of minors getting robbed.
The Netherlands’ refugee council, Vluctelingenwerk Nederland, called the Inspectorates’ findings “recognizable but nevertheless strong conclusions.” According to the refugee organization, the conditions in overcrowded asylum shelters and emergency reception locations are utterly unsuitable for children and other vulnerable groups.
“We see children daily who no longer want to eat and who even have symptoms of malnutrition. Children also regularly fall asleep during class because of fatigue complaints. If children have not already suffered trauma in the country they fled, or on the journey here, there is a considerable chance that they will do so here in the shelter,” said a spokesperson for Vluctelingenwerk. They also called on Van der Burg to intervene.
The Inspectorates also found other problems. For example, asylum shelters try to keep families together. But it sometimes happens that complete strangers are placed with them because of the shortage of beds. A location in Leeuwarden was set up in such a provisional way that the Inspectorates called it a “dire situation,” where children must not stay for long. That happens anyway.
The Inspectorates fail to understand that facilities for Ukrainians seem to be arranged better, and not all those places are even used. They point out that discrimination is illegal under the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
Reporting by ANP