Friday 22 November 2019

Rutte again says the cabinet has no plans to change child refugee policy

Refugees at Ter Apel

Photo: Peter de Ruiter/ UNHCR Brussel

The government has no plans to change the rules covering the amnesty for child refugees who have lived in the Netherlands for at least five years but still face deportation, prime minister Mark Rutte said at the weekend.

Rutte was responding to the campaign by tv presenter and journalist Tim Hofman who has made a documentary about the impact of pending deportation on children, seen partly through the eyes of a young boy from Iraq.

Rutte said that while he noted the new campaign, ‘there are no proposals to change the policy’. The Netherlands, he says, has a tough but just refugee policy and that this involves being tough about people who do not have the right to a residency permit.

‘Otherwise you will lose support in society,’ Rutte said.

The case of children who are going to school is a ‘sensitive one’, the prime minister said. ‘You have to be tough towards parents who know that they cannot stay here, and yet continue to do so,’ he said. ‘They are responsible for their children. They know the risk they are taking.’

Petition

Hofman’s petition had been signed almost 200,000 times by Monday morning, five times the number needed for the issue to be debated in parliament. Some 400 children are thought to be facing deportation even though they are well-rooted in the Netherlands, because they don’t meet the terms of the amnesty.

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, and if their parents have cooperated with efforts to send them back home.

One of the stars of the documentary is an eight-year-old Iraqi boy named Nemr, who was born in the Netherlands but has not qualified for the amnesty.

Hofman took Nemr to parliament where he asked leading politicians questions about why he was being sent to Iraq. Among them was VVD leader Klaas Dijkhoff who is shown bluntly telling Hofman ‘yes, and?’ when the Nemr says he fears that he will be killed.

Dijkhoff later took to Twitter to defend his position, arguing that the comment had been taken out of context and that he had to be careful not to give the children false hope.

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