Some 800 refugee children and their families are likely to be able to take advantage of new asylum rules for children who have developed roots in the Netherlands, justice minister Fred Teeven has confirmed.
On Friday, the cabinet agreed new guidelines for dealing with the problem of children who face deportation after spending a number of years in the Netherlands. The amnesty is the wish of the Labour party, which forms part of the current coalition with the right-wing VVD.
The new rules state youngsters should have lived in the Netherlands for at least five years and not been out of contact with the Dutch authorities for more than three months. They must also be under the age of 21 and have lied about their identity to officials no more than once.
Teeven will use his discretion to decide what to do about borderline cases.
Child refugees with a temporary residency permit because, for example, they are ill or studying, will also be given a one-off opportunity to apply for permanent residency.
Teeven says he assumes this clause will apply to Mauro Manuel, the 18-year-old Angolan youth who faced deportation last summer even though he has lived in the Netherlands since he was nine. Mauro is currently attending vocational training college.
The minister is drawing up definitive rules for child refugees which should be completed by the end of January. These will apply to youngsters aged 19 and younger.
The minister also published more details about the decision to make illegality a criminal offence.
Illegal immigrants will face fines depending on how long they have lived in the Netherlands and eventual prison terms.
Teeven told the Volkskrant he did not expect the fines to act as a deterrent. ‘A fine is too low a sanction to deter people from working illegally,’ he told the paper. ‘We have to be realistic about this.’
‘However, what it is really about is that these people leave,’ he said. ‘If you leave, you cannot be exploited.’