Thursday 09 February 2023

Use of force to restrain child refugees not reported to inspectors – NRC

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Staff at a detention centre for asylum-seeking children failed to report at least 20 incidents in which they used force to restrain detainees, an investigation by NRC newspaper has found.

The incidents happened at the high-security facility in Hoogeveen, Drenthe, known as the htl (enforcement and supervision location), where refugees who are violent or disruptive in are held for up to three months.

The youth care inspectorate (IGJ) said it had not been made aware of the incidents and asked the COA, the organisation responsible for accommodating asylum seekers, for clarification.

A COA spokesman told NRC that two incidents should have been reported to inspectors, but on other occasions staff had acted ‘proportionately’ and there was no requirement to report the incident.

Nidos, the organisation responsible for the guardianship of underage refugees, said it had received no reports of incidents from the COA and was unable to report them to the inspectorate. The IGJ said any use of force should be notified to a child’s guardian.

Prison regime

Conditions at the centre are similar to a prison regime, with locked gates and wardens carrying handcuffs. The justice ministry confirmed to NRC that around 30 unaccompanied teenagers aged 16 to 18 had been detained at the campus since it opened in 2020.

NRC said it had identified 20 instances of staff using force against children, including one in which a detainee was handcuffed and had a bag put over his head after he spat at staff.

Another staff member was dismissed after an internal inquiry found they had hit a child refugee without provocation. The incident only came to light when a whistleblower stepped forward.

The COA told NRC that the restraint of the boy who spat at staff and the unprovoked assault should have been reported, but staff were unaware of their duty to inform the IGJ.

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