Deporting children who have lived in the Netherlands for more than five years is both irresponsible and extremely damaging, experts in child medicine, neurology and psychiatry say in a new paper.
The paper, written by three university professors and signed by a further 35, was written in response to the planned deportation of Armenian children Lili and Howick, who were given a last-minute reprieve earlier this year.
Some 400 children are thought to be in a similar position to Lili and Howick – three are currently living in a church in The Hague in an effort to stop police removing them to a detention centre to await being sent back to their country of origin.
The professors say that children threatened with deportation live in constant stress, due to a lack of stability and future perspective.
‘Children who constantly feel their stay in the Netherlands could end today suffer from chronic stress and this could have a serious impact on their brain development,’ neuro-psychology professor Erik Scherder from Amsterdam’s VU university told the NRC.
‘There is a major risk that they cannot adapt to their new surroundings… If you move from a wealthy environment to a completely strange, poor situation, then you need a super brain to adapt,’ Scherder said.
The professors hope their paper will contribute to making a properly founded decision about these children, Scherder said. ‘The discussion usually focuses on having a roof over your head and a shower. But it is about much more.’
The Dutch government has a special amnesty for well-rooted refugee children, 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.
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 and are therefore not ‘official’. In addition, children are ruled ineligible if their parents have not cooperated with efforts to deport them – which rules out nearly everyone.
Prime minister Mark Rutte has said repeatedly the cabinet has no plans to change the rules, despite calls from opposition MPs, celebrities and aid groups.
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