Twenty violent incidents against child asylum seekers hidden from Inspectorate: report
The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) concealed at least 20 incidents of violence used against minor asylum seekers from their guardians and the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate. The COA never reported the violence used on teenagers in the enforcement and supervision location in Hoogeveen, NRC reports based on its own research.
The Hoogeveen location houses asylum seekers who caused nuisance at regular asylum shelters. According to the newspaper, it has a prison-like regime with strict supervision, enforcers walking around with handcuffs, and locked gates. At least 30 unaccompanied minors, aged 16 to 18, have stayed at the Hoogeveen location since it opened in 2020, the Ministry of Justice and Security said. These teens are under the guardianship of guardianship organization Nidos.
If children are confronted with violence in an asylum shelter, the COA must report it to their guardians - Nidos, in this case. The organization told NRC that it had not received any such reports. It must also report incidents to the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate, which monitors whether the children are safe in the shelter. The Inspectorate is also unaware of any incidents, according to the newspaper.
The COA acknowledged that it should have reported two of the 20 incidents. In one, a teenager was pushed to the ground by COA employees, handcuffed, and got a bag pulled over his head. According to the COA, the bag was to keep the boy from spitting. In the other incident, a COA employee beat up a teenager without any known cause. The COA sent the employee away but did not report the incident.
According to the COA, the failure to report these two incidents was “not a deliberate action” but because its staff did not know they had to report them. The other 18 cases of violence used against children were “not worth reporting” because the minors started the aggression. So it was “proportional” for COA employees to bring the teenagers “to the ground in an appropriate manner,” the COA said, according to the newspaper.
The Inspectorate disagrees. According to the Inspectorate, the COA must discuss all incidents of violence with the involved children’s guardians. The guardians and COA can then decide whether it is necessary to inform the Inspectorate.
Monika Smit, a Groningen professor specializing in the care of unaccompanied minors, agrees that the COA should have reported all the violent incidents. “It is not up to the institution to determine for itself whether violence is justified. Based on the report, the Inspectorate can assess whether further investigation is necessary,” Smit said to the newspaper. “Otherwise, everything can keep going wrong without any intervention.”