Tuesday 21 March 2023

New rule means hundreds of refugee children may not be reunited with their parents: NRC

Refugee children on the Syrian border.

Hundreds of refugee children could lose the right to bring their parents to the Netherlands despite protests from the immigration service IND, sources have told the NRC.

Caretaker junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol is reportedly pushing ahead with a new measure without properly informing MPs, claims the NRC.

The ruling aims to stop children being sent ahead to the Netherlands alone and then claiming asylum for their close family. It would mean unaccompanied minors who are taken into the care of another family member here can no longer have their parents or siblings join them.

Although requests for reunification have been falling in the last few years – from 3,860 at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis to 985 last year – the caretaker government wants to limit them further. Some 90% of solo minors asked for their parents and siblings to come to the Netherlands, an average of six new migrants.

However, immigration experts have said the new policy contravenes the United Nations convention on the rights of the child and the 2003 European guideline on family renunification.

Immigration service IND also doubts whether the new measure will survive legal scrutiny, claims the NRC. Broekers-Knol is aware of the ‘legal and practical weaknesses’ but wants to give a clear signal to stop the practice, one IND chief reportedly said.

The justice ministry did not comment on Broekers-Knol and the IND warning but told the NRC the measure had been chosen ‘after careful deliberation’.

The new rule could affect some 200 children who have already been given asylum in the Netherlands, an IND report has shown. Many have appealed against the rejection of their claim for family reunification but so far there has been no decision from the administrative court, which abjudicates in disputes about government decisions. That means the measure may still fall through.

Last year the Netherlands refused to participate in a European initiative to accommodate 5,100 children who were living Greek refugee camps because they were ‘unaccompanied minors sent ahead to make quarter for their families’, the government said at the time.

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