Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff said on Thursday he has no intention of relaxing the terms of an amnesty for child refugees despite claims the current rules are ‘a serious infringement of children’s rights’.
Dijkhoff said the current rules are well balanced and that the discretion he has to allow children to stay after all should be seen as an exception, not the rule.
Since 2013, 1,300 applications for residency permits under the terms of the amnesty have been made to the minister but just 100 have been granted, RTL news reported.
Children can qualify for the amnesty if they have lived in the Netherlands for more than five years, have been under the supervision of an official organisation and are under the age of 18.
However, hundreds of children still face deportation because they were not under official supervision. Being in touch with local councils and going to school is not sufficient to qualify for the amnesty because these bodies do not have a role in law in immigration policy, the Council of State said last year.
The amnesty was agreed by Labour and the right-wing VVD as part of their coalition deal but has been heavily criticised by aid group Defence for Children and the UN’s children’s rights group Unicef.
Among the children currently scheduled for deportation is 13-year-old Tri Pam who was born in Arnhem and has lived all his life in the Netherlands.
Broadcaster Nos spoke to two Egyptian Christian children on Thursday who also face deportation to Egypt after seven years. Maryam, 15, told the broadcaster she has nothing in the country where she was born. ‘This is where my friends are, this is where I go to school,’ she said. ‘In Egypt I have nothing.’
Maryam lives with her father and two brothers at a refugee centre in Amersfoort. According to the family’s lawyer, they fled after Maryam’s mother was taken by the Muslim Brotherhood because she refused to convert to Islam. She has not been heard of since.
According to broadcaster NOS, most of the children and their families scheduled for deportation are still in the Netherlands. Just 80 people have been deported and 320 left voluntarily, although officials do not know if they actually left the country.
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