Immigration service violates children's rights when questioning young asylum seekers
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) violates children’s rights. The University of Amsterdam concluded this after investigating the intake interviews IND officials held with child asylum seekers over the past four years, NOS reports.
According to the researchers, the IND interrogations cause a lot of uncertainty and stress. The questions are often too complex for children to answer, and they often don’t understand the consequences of their answers for their asylum application. This working method makes it “almost impossible” for the IND to comply with Article 12 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children must be able to express their opinion freely in all matters that concern them.
The IND uses the interviews to investigate whether child asylum seekers are eligible for asylum in the Netherlands and whether their story is credible. IND officials interview children as young as six on their own if they came to the Netherlands without their parents or guardian. If kids are accompanied by an adult, they’re only interviewed on their own from age 15.
“They apply for asylum, so information must be obtained about where they come from and how they came to the Netherlands. But especially for young children, the questions are too detailed for them to be able to give a good answer,” researcher Stephanie Rap said to NOS. For the study, Rap spoke to child asylum seekers, social workers, lawyers, and IND employees. She also viewed recordings of interviews with minors.
According to Rap, the children get questioned about the situation in their country of origin, their family, dates of birth, and place names. “And about places where they may have lived very briefly or a long time ago,” Rap said. “That is very complicated to answer.”
This can cause a lot of stress. “Because the expectations are not clear and because it is not clear what the purpose of the interview is,” she said to the broadcaster. “Even children in the older target group often don’t know what is expected of them during such a conversation or what questions they can expect.”
The children Rap spoke to said that the officials often repeated or worded questions differently. “Which makes them think they’ve given the wrong answer or should say something else. That leads to a lot of stress and uncertainty about the outcome and how the interview will affect their application.”
IND director Joel Schoneveld told NOS that the IND considers the age and developmental level of the child in the interviews and also what pressure the questions would put on them. But he added that people shouldn’t lose sight of the context. “Recently, we have had a high influx of unaccompanied minor children. They are often sent ahead by the parents and end up here. That is an undesirable situation,” he said. “They use human traffickers and smugglers.”
According to Schoneveld, it is essential that the Dutch authorities know where the children came from and why they came to the Netherlands. “That can, of course, also cause stress. So we invest a lot in our employees who do the interrogations with children, to inform them well about how to talk to children.”