More and more children who have come to the Netherlands without parents are applying for asylum here. At the same time, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) faces a more complicated procedure, because the State Council has ruled that the Netherlands sometimes sends these children too quickly. This creates more work for the IND, which cannot already handle the current number of asylum applications.
This year, more than 1,200 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers (AMVs) who came to the Netherlands without their parents applied for asylum. The IND has already seen an increase since the second half of last year.
In 2020 and the first part of 2021, there were significantly fewer asylum applications from children traveling alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to travel restrictions, far fewer asylum seekers came to the Netherlands anyway.
Now that the impact of the Corona pandemic has diminished, the number of asylum applications is increasing again. There is, as it were, catching up, especially in the field of relatives. In addition, the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last year led to an increase in the number of refugees.
It is estimated that 41,500 asylum seekers will come to the Netherlands this year. The IND sees a relatively stronger increase in the number of unaccompanied minors, adolescents in general.
Moreover, the number of asylum applications from this group is much higher than in most years before 2020. Last year, the majority of these children came from Syria.
2015 was the peak year for the European refugee crisis caused by the wars in Libya, Mali and Syria.
Children often travel alone to apply for family reunification
Research by the IND shows that these children mainly want to apply for asylum so that their parents can also come to the Netherlands. Sometimes they are also expelled by their parents.
The rules for applying for family reunification in the Netherlands differ from those in other European countries. As a result, unaccompanied minors believe that it is easier for them to obtain residence status for themselves and their families in the Netherlands.
Compared to other countries, the Netherlands receives many more asylum applications from this group, and this number is increasing. Currently, of all the people who have applied for asylum in the Netherlands, almost 10 per cent are children who have come here without parents.
The Netherlands should do better research before the child returns
The Netherlands will now also adjust the asylum procedure for these UMAs. This is necessary after the Council of State decided in June that the Netherlands returned some children very quickly. Until recently, children were told for the first time that their asylum application had been rejected, and in some cases it wasn’t until then that they checked whether they had a good place to stay if they were returned.
According to the State Council, the Netherlands must first check whether the child has a suitable place to stay, and only then can it be decided whether the asylum seeker will stay or not. The Netherlands can do this, for example, on the basis of the child’s statements, checking address details or with the help of experts from aid organizations.
This investigation was initially allowed to take up to three years, but the State Council believes that is too long. That is why this investigation must now be completed within a year.
What happens if an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker comes to the Netherlands?
- Like other asylum seekers, children must first inform Ter Apel.
- After registration, they are taken to a reception center where they wait for their asylum application. A guardian is appointed to them through Nidos.
- After that, children aged 15-18 go to special reception sites for unaccompanied minors. Younger children (13 and 14 years old) are placed in a foster family.
The IND cannot handle the number of asylum applications
According to Foreign Minister Eric van der Burgh (Justice and Security), the new way of working creates more work pressure in the IND. Since an investigation must now be conducted on the spot, the procedure for registering a minor refugee may take longer.
If the Netherlands decides that the child must go home after all, there are now more options to appeal against that decision. As a result, the number of appeals is expected to increase.
The IND processes asylum applications in the Netherlands, but is already behind in the number of cases, partly due to a staff shortage. At the beginning of 2022, there were still 21,000 pending applications. As more asylum seekers are expected to arrive in the Netherlands this year than were expected last year, this number will increase.