MPs urge end to detention of refugee children
27 September 2006, AMSTERDAM — Dutch MPs have told the government it should end a policy of detaining asylum seeker families with underage children in refugee detention centres.
27 September 2006
AMSTERDAM — Dutch MPs have told the government it should end a policy of detaining asylum seeker families with underage children in refugee detention centres.
In a debate with Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk on Tuesday night, various political parties lodged motions urging the government to stop the detention of refugee children.
But government policy looks set to remain unchanged because none of the motions are expected to gain majority support.
The opposition Labour PvdA said the asylum seeker parents of underage children should never again be locked up in secure detention centres. The Socialist SP, green-left GroenLinks, Democrat D66 and the ChristenUnie backed the PvdA stance.
Coalition government parties the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD said families with young children should instead be placed in repatriation centres to await their deportation.
However, the CDA said if the parents appear unwilling to co-operate with their repatriation and threaten to disappear as illegal immigrants, the possibility should remain open to detain them in secure centres.
In that case, the CDA said the children should be housed with a foster family.
The party admitted that the parents had the right to keep their children with them in the detention centre, despite the existence of alternatives.
If that occurs, the government should ensure that the children can leave the detention centre as much as possible and be able to attend school.
It means that motions aimed at ending the detention of asylum seeker children will not gain majority support.
Liberal VVD Minister Verdonk said she would prefer not to place children in detention centres either, stressing that she did everything possible to avoid it.
But she also said such a situation could not always be prevented, for example, when parents want to keep their children with them. "Essentially, the responsibility is with the parents," she said.
Verdonk said she had recently amended policy to prevent asylum seeker families with children ending up in detention centres.
Families who applied for asylum under the old immigration law (pre-April 2001) can be placed in a repatriation centre if they are still in the country more than 28 days after their planned departure date. Repatriation centres have more and better facilities for children.
Children with families with small children who entered the Netherlands after April 2001 are also given that possibility.
If they show that they tried to voluntarily return to their country of origin in that 28-day period, the asylum seekers can extend that stay by 12 weeks to give them time to arrange alternative accommodation.
Organisations such as the Council of Churches (Raad van Kerken), Amnesty International, Dutch Refugee Council (VluchtelingenWerk) and Defence for Children have been urging the Cabinet for months to agree in principle that children should no longer be placed in detention centres for asylum seekers.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news