There is a threat of a serious shortage of reception places for unaccompanied minors, according to figures from the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and the guardianship organization Nidos.
The COA places the young people in locations with a size of 50 to 100 places as long as their asylum application is still pending and says it will need almost 2400 extra places this year. Nidos accommodates them in homes if they are allowed to stay in the Netherlands; the foundation needs another 2300.
In total, almost 4,700 extra places are needed for these young people this year, almost 1.5 times as many as the number of places this group currently has. In the provinces of South Holland and North Holland in particular, the task is still great. In Noord-Holland, 996 extra places must be added this year for both organizations together, in Zuid-Holland there are 1327 combined.
These maps show how many places need to be added per province:
Last year, 4200 single young people applied for asylum in the Netherlands, twice as many as in 2021. The Ministry of Justice expects about 5000 young people this year. “Last year, 80 percent of this group had a good chance of obtaining a residence permit,” says COA director Joeri Kapteijns. “And so new shelters are desperately needed.”
Distribution law will not take effect until next year
Until the new distribution law comes into force next year, municipalities can choose whether or not they want to offer shelter for these young people. The municipality that signs for housing must also ensure that education is available for this group.
“Education is a major concern,” says COA director Kapteijns. A group of 80 young people means three to four extra school classes. “Eventually we manage to get everyone to school, but sometimes it takes weeks or months.”
The image of this group also plays a role, says Kapteijns. “There is still the idea that they cause nuisance.” That image, he says, is incorrect. “There have been incidents in the past, but in general things are going well.”
As early as October, State Secretary Van der Burg asked the provinces – which supervise the accommodation of beneficiaries – whether they could provide 25 to 30 Nidos locations per province. That has hardly led to anything, says Van der Burg. The COA says that there are municipalities that have offered real estate, but that happens “still too little”.
This year, at least fifty new COA reception locations are needed. Last year, COA opened 35 new locations, but many temporary locations also closed. As a result, the COA already expects a shortage of 200 reception places in mid-March.
Move six, seven times
Roughly half of the young people without a residence permit stay in a temporary location, which is often not really suitable for this, according to social workers. In a hotel they are alone in a room and there are no areas for communal activities. Sometimes they also stay at a location near an ordinary asylum seekers’ center (azc) or at another location where they are with adults. There is less supervision and less psychological counseling.
The temporary locations often only stay open for a short time. As a result, young people often move. At seventeen years and nine months, a single person must also move on to an ordinary asylum seekers centre. That measure from the asylum deal was recently extended again.
Mustafa Bostan (18) from Syria moved six times and will soon be moving a seventh time since he came to the Netherlands alone two years ago. “It was a bit difficult for me to get to know a new school, a new teacher, a new mentor and new friends every time. I don’t have any family to help me. I don’t speak the language so that also makes it difficult. I felt feeling lonely.”
Prevent children from sleeping on chairs again
“If you are constantly being dragged around, you have the feeling that you are not welcome anywhere,” says Saskia Sliedrecht, a healthcare psychologist who often works with this group. “These young people have no parents with whom they can put problems into perspective. The systematic uprooting ensures that they no longer dare to bond.”
Sliedrecht: “If Dutch parents treated children the way these young people were treated – letting them sleep in a chair at night, giving them insufficient food or drink, then moving them from place to place and from school to school – then that would be child abuse. and Youth Care would take over here.”
The Nidos waiting list has now grown to 174. These young people – who already know that they are allowed to stay in the Netherlands – are therefore having to stay in asylum reception facilities for longer and longer. “It means they can’t start their lives,” says Tanno Klijn, director of Nidos.
If the COA locations become full, young people will stay longer in Ter Apel. Last summer, unaccompanied minor aliens spent the night there on a chair. At that time, more than 300 unaccompanied minors were staying in the application centre, almost six times as many as there is officially room for (55). That number has now been reduced to about 100, says Kapteijns, “but we really have to prevent children from having to sleep on chairs again this year”.
- Half of unaccompanied minor refugees reunited with family
- In one month 2000 underage asylum seekers ‘lost’ in Europe
- Inspectors sound the alarm about underage asylum seekers in Ter Apel