Monday 23 May 2022

Unicef says the Dutch government is failing refugee children

A pro-refugee demo in the Netherlands. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Unicef Nederland says the development of 2,000 or so refugee children living in emergency accommodation is being damaged and that the government is failing in its duty to care for them.

The children, the agency said, are the victims of the ‘ongoing crisis’ in the emergency shelters. ‘These children have the right to a place where they feel safe and protected,’ the agency said. ‘The Dutch government has a legal duty to ensure this.’

Unicef is the latest group to sound the alarm about the situation facing children who are still living in emergency housing – often in tents or sports halls.

The agency quoted 16-year-old Nala who sleeps in a room with no door. ‘So we block the evening every night otherwise strangers can stand by your bed,’ she said. Karam, aged 16, who travelled along from Syria said: ‘I have no one to talk to and no place where I can be alone’.

‘Nothing is being done and we are leaving these children to their lot,’ said director Suzanne Laszlo. Children should have priority when it comes to being moved to small scale centres where there is room ‘to be a child’, she said.

In addition, the constant moving and impact on their schooling is damaging their mental health and their development, she said.

Mental neglect

Last month children’s ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer told the NRC that children held at the Ter Apel refugee centre are living in ‘unacceptable conditions’ and facing ‘mental neglect’.

She said she was particularly concerned about the 113 unaccompanied minors living at the camp, which is a first port of call for asylum seekers when they arrive in the Netherlands.

There is no education, no activities, no help, nothing,’ she said. ‘They get food and that is it. Staff told me that they often don’t bother to wake the children up in the morning because there is nothing for them to do.’

Refugee settlement agency COA has failed to respond to Dutch News questions about what is being done to improve the situation facing unaccompanied minors in particular.

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