di Benedetta di Matteo
Mr. Vegter, last month the Dutch government reached an agreement, according to which several refugee children will be given the right to stay in the Netherlands. How many children and families will this affect?
That is not yet known. According to governmental sources, about 700 cases will be reassessed, however, it is not explained where this figure comes from, so we need to wait for official figures. So far, we also do not know for sure how many legal cases will be reopened exactly and how many children will be impacted by the decision. However, the Dutch government’s plan is to reassess all cases before the end of 2019, with the exception of appeal procedures.
Regarding the government’s decision to abolish the controversial kinderpardon (child amnesty), can you explain to us what this means in practice?
In 2013, the Dutch government passed two kinderpardon regulations: a preliminary one and a permanent one; the latter required refugee children under the age of 18 to reside in the Netherlands for at least five years before February 2013. One of the criteria contained in the regulations was that the childrens’ parents or legal guardian were sufficiently collaborating with the Dutch authorities towards their expulsion, otherwise known as the meewerkcriterium (collaboration criterion). With time, this criterion became very strict, and only extreme situations became tolerated as exceptions, such as life-threatening conditions in origin countries or statelessness. As a result, only a small fraction of refugee children was granted their stay in the Netherlands. What made the kinderpardon
so controversial was that in assessing these childrens’ cases, all other factors were irrelevant: the permanent regulation did not take in consideration the well-being of the children or their level of integration into Dutch society at all. We at Defence for Children are striving for a stronger position for children well-being in Dutch immigration law, and we are hopeful that the new directive, expected to replace the 2013 regulation in the next weeks or months, will do just that.
Is the agreement a step forward with regards to children’s rights, legally speaking?
Generally speaking, the abolishment of previous regulation and the adoption of the new directive is good news for children rights and for the affected families; it is indeed very important that children rights are finally included in Dutch immigration law.
According to the agreement, the Netherlands will reduce the number of refugees it accepts under UN rules. What is your opinion on this decision?
We think that is a horrible part of the compromise. The refugees that will be affected by the negotiation are extremely vulnerable, so we are disgusted by the way in which this issue was even part of the negotiation. This is also the view of many other organisations in the Netherlands that deal with human and refugee rights. This is really not the way human rights should be dealt with; there should not be any bargaining involved when it comes to human lives, regardless of the political gains.