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Dutch municipalities call for more humane system of residence permits for asylum-seeking children

Dutch municipalities and NGOs are calling for a more humane system of granting residence permits for asylum-seeking children, many of whom have spent most or all of their lives in the Netherlands. The Children's Ombudswoman of the Netherlands, as well as a number of NGOs, have asked the government to revisit the call for a broader children’s pardon—a temporary measure in 2013 that granted residence permits to unaccompanied minors and asylum-seeking children who had lived in the Netherlands for at least five years. More than 25 municipalities have also asked for a less restrictive children’s pardon earlier this year.

But the State Secretary for Justice and Security, Mark Harbers, has stated that the conditions for the children’s pardon will not change. Furthermore, he acknowledged that the way the pardon was drafted will not help the 400 asylum-seeking children who have been in the country for 5 years or more without a residence permit.

His statements stand in contrast to his decision in the case of two Armenian siblings who had been living in the Netherlands for 10 years before receiving deportation orders. Following heavy criticism about the orders, the State Secretary decided in September 2018 that the children can remain in the Netherlands, though he emphasised that the case was not a precedent for others. A similar pending case is that of two children, ages 14 and 10, who were deported to Ukraine, although both of them were born and raised in the Netherlands. In their case, the family, who had lived in the Netherlands for 17 years, was deported after the State Secretary refused to grant them a discretionary residency permit. Their case will be reviewed again by Dutch courts on 24 October 2018.

See more about the debate on the children's pardon

Read about the efforts of municipalities