Friday 21 February 2020

Half the children in final refugee amnesty review can stay

Refugees at Ter Apel

Children in the Ter Apel refuguee centre. Photo: Peter de Ruiter/ UNHCR Brussel

Just over half the refugee children hoping to be given residency rights in the Netherlands in a final review of the child refugee amnesty have won the right to stay.

In total, 569 out of 1,100 children have been given residency permits, along with 502 adult family members, junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol told MPs on Wednesday.

The cases of 263 children were given an automatic review, after MPs agreed to soften the criteria in a final attempt to end the problems around the amnesty early last year.

Of those 263 cases, 235 were granted residency. In addition, a further 837 children applied for the amnesty who were not part of the automatic review. Most of those cases were rejected, but 334 children were given a residency permit, Broekers-Knol said.

Most of the children who did not qualify had either not lived in the Netherlands for five years, had not applied before they turned 18 or did not have a refugee request pending, the minister said.

Scrapped

Wednesday’s announcement means the amnesty (known as a pardon in Dutch), has now been scrapped, as agreed by the coalition parties last year. Officials hope asylum procedures have now been made faster so that children do not have time to become ‘rooted in the Netherlands’.

The Netherlands has been criticised by both human rights groups and psychiatrists for deporting children, many of whom were born here, back to countries where they did not speak the language and which they had never visited.

The issue came to a head in January last year and threatened to cause a serious rift in the cabinet after the Christian Democrats did a u-turn and said they supported giving the children the right to stay after all.

IND officials said at the time the review was launched they expected most of the children and their family members will now be allowed to stay, taking the total to around 1,300 people.

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