“Children leave the asylum worse than when they enter”


In the visitor parking lot at the Ter Apel Registration Center, where a makeshift tent camp has been set up, the De Vrolijkheid Foundation is occupying the children.Harry Cook / de Volkskrant Statue

The living conditions of refugee children in emergency shelters in the Netherlands are ‘substandard’. More than eighty health care and education professionals for young people have concluded this in a study conducted by the Working Group for Children in Alazque, which will be published today on World Refugee Day.

Children in emergency care have demonstrable developmental damage and do not receive adequate education and care. They are dragged from the heat to it and sometimes out of school for months. Some children also become malnourished because they do not like and eat the food provided.

Working Group A to Z, through which several children’s aid organizations work together, is calling on the Cabinet to immediately remove more than 2,000 children from emergency shelter sites and transfer them to “small, stable and permanent asylum care”. According to the surveyed specialists, the interests of asylum children are currently under severe pressure. One of them even said: “Children come out of our shelter worse than when they entered.”

Inspectors write fiery letter about poor asylum reception for children

According to the Justice and Security Inspectorate and the Health Care and Youth Inspectorate, child and youth care at asylum reception is also not available. The organizations called on Foreign Minister Eric van der Burgh (Asylum) on Monday to intervene.

Due to too much pressure on reception, staff cannot provide proper reception and orientation more than they should. The inspections found several violations. Minors are exposed to stress or even violence and do not receive adequate care and education.

According to the inspection departments, children often have to sleep for very long periods in night shelters. Three times as many unaccompanied minors were found staying at the central reception site at Ter Apel as intended. According to the inspection departments, they are not taken care of properly: their rooms become dirty, it is often not possible to eat together and unsafe situations arise because groups of children and young people are arguing with each other.

Last month, the House of Representatives adopted a motion that also draws attention to the difficult situation in which refugee children find themselves in emergency shelter. In this letter, the Cabinet is requested to move the children to stable and compact locations as soon as possible. But instead, the Cabinet appears to be focusing on a few new large-scale emergency shelter sites, as announced last week.

Feeling insecure and sleeping badly

Research shows that many children feel insecure due to lack of privacy and poor sleep due to noise at night. Education staff does not know how long a child will be in an emergency shelter, which means that education does not always begin. As a result, not all refugee children go to school within three months. According to teachers, children who go to school often have problems concentrating. Sometimes they sleep in class.

Malnutrition in emergency shelters was also mentioned as a major problem. Children from faraway countries are not familiar with Dutch food. As a result, some people eat poorly, get few nutrients, lose weight and end up in poor health. Due to the lack of living money and their own cooking facilities, their parents have no control over this. They are very concerned about the health of their children.

Hardly any access to care

According to the research report, the situation is also “tragic” in terms of access to care. According to pediatricians and young nurses, there is only a “limited medical amount”. There are also few or no options for referral for necessary specialized care, such as youth mental health care, youth care, and speech therapy.

Almost all professionals say they work with families who moved more than three times between emergency shelters in one year. According to one, “Families often move suddenly before the needed care can be provided.”

They also see children becoming isolated and suffering from psychological and social complaints. “Children are increasingly falling victim to the refugee reception crisis,” concluded Arjan Omkins, Child Working Group Coordinator at the Center for Asylum Seekers. We’ve been sounding alarm bells since the summer of last year. The authorities and professionals agree that it cannot continue like this, but no one comes up with a solution. this is unacceptable.’

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