Youth asylum experiment to continue
27 November 2003
AMSTERDAM — Despite criticism and ongoing violent incidents, a special camp for unaccompanied underage asylum seekers (AMAs) will continue operation until at least the end of 2004.
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is poised to advise the Cabinet of her plans to keep the Vught camp open at least one more year. A second camp at Deelen was scheduled to be closed on Thursday.
A confidential memo newspaper De Volkskrant has obtained a copy of indicates that Minister Verdonk will maintain the present camp policy at Vught and that she is keen to gain more experience with AMA camps before a definitive evaluation is made.
The camps have played a role in reducing the number of youth asylum seekers entering the Netherlands. A total of 6,705 applied for asylum in 2000, but just 1,019 have entered the nation in the first 10 months of this year.
While Dutch authorities consider the fall in numbers a success, refugee organisations including Human Rights Watch (HRW), VON (Association of Refugee Organisations), VluchtelingenWerk (Dutch Refugee Council), NIDOS (organisation responsible for guardianship) and SAMAH (non-governmental support group) consider the price far too high.
In a recent report sent to the UN Commission on the Rights of the Child, HRW investigations found “children’s basic rights are frequently ignored or considered inapplicable during the consideration of their asylum and immigration applications”.
“It was surprising that the Dutch Government has gone so far out of bounds,” says Julie Chadbourne, spokesperson for Human Rights Watch. “To be fair, maybe they didn’t realise how far-reaching the consequences would be.”
The goal of the initially stringent AMA camps was to scare off young asylum seekers from travelling to the Netherlands. The Vught camp was opened in November 2002 and Deelen was opened in February 2003.
The camps are designed to prepare the youths for a return to their land of origin. They were subjected to tough regulations modelled on rehabilitation programmes for young criminals, but eventual legal challenges and rebellious behaviour from the AMAs resulted in a relaxation of the regulations.
Despite primary goal of returning them to their land of origin, only three asylum seeker camp residents have been sent home.
The Deelen location has also been unpopular with the Ede municipality, which has protested about the camp, where 30 youths are kept. It demanded the camp be moved elsewhere due to permanent unrest among its residents.
A large majority of the camp residents have already been transferred to other shelters and the remaining residents will be relocated on Thursday. The rental contract for the camp at Deelen had previously been terminated.
But negotiations to re-sign a rental agreement at Vught continue and if the municipality refuses to grant the extension, Minister Verdonk will be forced to find another location.
There are 150 AMAs in the Vught camp. A total of 16 Chinese youths were transferred to the Crailo asylum seeker centre recently after violence broke out between them and West African youths. A Chinese youth was stabbed in the fight.
A large majority of the AMA youth come from Angola (137 in 2003 and 854 in 2002), but to prevent the arrival of more asylum seekers, the Netherlands has financed the establishment of an AMA shelter in the impoverished African country.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news