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In 2012, an children’s amnesty policy was instated for children who have settled in the Netherlands. However, it turns out that 98% of all children is rejected for this policy: It is impossible to comply with the countless conditions of this “amnesty”.
Most of the requests for amnesty are rejected on the base of the applicant ‘insufficiently cooperating on their return’.
Cooperation to return
The fact that ‘cooperating on return’ is a condition for amnesty is of course bizarre. Why would someone who wants to return apply for amnesty? Why is leaving a condition to stay in the Netherlands? From the moment that refugees arrive in the Netherlands they have to talk to representatives from the deportation agency DT&V (Service for Return and Departure). Even if there are still asylum procedures running, the DT&V tells refugees that they have no future in this country and that they have to return to their country of origin. But people don’t flee their homes for nothing. 84% of refugees who come to the Netherlands come from countries where war conflicts are ongoing. It is more than natural that these families do not want to sign for return!
In the family locations, there are also many families that are not ‘deportable’, because they are stateless, or because their country of origin doesn’t want to take them back. Even in these cases the DT&V obliges these families to cooperate on an impossible ‘return’.
Furthermore, children are denied amnesty because they have not been under the supervision of the IND or DT&V for the whole duration of their stay in the Netherlands. A number of families does not live at the family locations but in shelter homes. Their children go to Dutch schools and are also registered there. Through supporting organizations these families are also known at the municipal authorities. These families were certainly known with the authorities, but are still rejected on this same ground.
How can it be mandatory to voluntarily
work with your own return
Finally, there are some requests that are rejected because one of the parents falls under the so-called ‘article 1F’. This article excludes people who are potentially guilty of war crimes from receiving asylum. In the Netherlands, article 1F is applied to far more refugees than in other countries. This is because the IND uses ‘working for the government’ as a criterium for article 1F instead of looking at what someone actually did. Every civil servant – even cleaners of ministry buildings or teachers – are seen as potential war criminals. The IND does not allow refugees to have their supposed involvement researched through a court case.
Next to the impossible criteria, a application for children’s amnesty is horribly expensive: A family with three children has to pay €770 for ‘application costs’. The decision on the application is usually given on the same day, which means that it is already known in advance with the authorities. But even with a rejection of the application the costs are collected and not given back – not even partially. The family simply loses this money, even though the weekly allowance at the family locations lies under the minimum subsistence level.
Critique on the children’s amnesty policy
Even though the children’s amnesty policy was originally presented as showpiece of the PvdA (Dutch labor party), it has become clear that the policy doesn’t work in practice. This has resulted in strong criticism from many organisations:
- Children’s ombudsman Marc Dullaert called the children’s amnesty policy an ‘idiocy’ and published dozens of rejected dossiers to provide an insight into the impossible criteria that the IND uses.
- Defence for Children started a petition and started a campaign for a fair children’s amnesty policy. The petition has already been signed more than 37.600 times, including the signatures of more than 300 mayors. Moreover, there is a contact point for ‘rooted children’. On their website Defence for Children explains very clearly what goes wrong under the current amnesty policy.
- Sign the petition for a fair Children’s amnesty here.
- In 2017 parliament voted in favour of a memo that said the Children’s Amnesty policy should be more accessible.
Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland also calls for a more generous application of the children’s amnesty policy.
On 25 June 2014 Defence for Children organized the manifestation ‘Fair Children’s Amnesty’ in the Hague, but the fight is far from over.
The Dutch TV broadcasting EenVandaag made a documentary about the Children’s Amnesty
This is why GEEN KIND AAN DE KANT organized two ‘demonstration tours’ in 2016 together with the refugees in the family shelters to draw attention to the children’s amnesty policy again.