All residence applications of people who want to live in the Netherlands are processed by the IND. Therefore, the IND must be well fitted up for the contact with a great variety of applicants. Children form a group that calls for extra attention.
What is the role of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Attention is paid to the position of children in many ways in the policy on foreign nationals. If follows from the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that the child's best interests explicitly must always form a part of the decision-making process on an application for asylum or a regular application. This does not mean that the child's best interests are the deciding factor. Other interests, such as a reserved migration policy, may outweigh. There has to be a fair balance, however, taking the child's best interests into account, which must be clearly reflected in the decision on the application.
What is the role of the European Convention on Human Rights?
The IND assesses all first applications for asylum, making a substantive assessment by reference to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This Article 8 refers to the right to respect for private and family life. When testing in relation to Article 8 ECHR, a comparative assessment is made of all circumstances put forward by the applicant. In doing so, the child's best interests are of a weighty interest. Lastly, the court verifies whether the IND has taken sufficient account of the child's best interests. The court also verifies whether the IND has sufficiently clear considered the child's best interests in its reasons for the decision.
Not just all first applications for asylum in which a substantive assessment is made are tested in relation to Article 8 ECHR. This is also the case in regular procedures concerning applications involving parents and/or children, in which cases no residence permit can be granted for the residence purpose applied for.
Are children granted an asylum residence permit faster than adults?
The test of whether somebody is entitled to protection by asylum is the same for both children and adults. Beside grounds for asylum, children or their parents often bring forward circumstances relating to the children's personal development when applying for asylum. However understandable, these circumstances are often not relevant, or relevant only to a limited extent, for the question of whether the child needs protection by asylum. Restrictions in the opportunities for development upon return, in principle, cannot be invoked as grounds for the protection by asylum.
Children in a family unit
Children often come to the Netherlands with their parents to apply for asylum together. Children in the Netherlands applying for asylum with their family are interviewed independently from the age of 15, as, from that age, they submit an independent application for asylum beside to their parents' application. Children between 12 and 15 years of age are only interviewed on their motives for seeking asylum if they so request or where there are grounds to do so. Families will be informed thereof before the beginning of the asylum procedure.
Unaccompanied Minor Aliens (UMAs)
Sometimes children without parents come to the Netherlands to apply for asylum. We then speak of Unaccompanied Minor Aliens (UMAs). Basically, the assessment of the application for asylum of a UMA is the same as of that of an adult. The IND assesses whether the UMA has well-founded fear for persecution according to the Geneva Convention on Refugees and whether a genuine risk of serious injury in case of deportation is likely. At the same time, specific procedures and procedural guarantees are built-in. The exact guarantees and measures depend on the minor's age and individual situation. For each UMA a guardian is appointed by the Stichting Nidos and an attorney to look after his or her interests. There is special information material and the UMA is assisted and accommodated in a special reception centre for young asylees of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA), in a foster family or the so-called secure protection.
How does the IND know whether someone is underage?
In case of doubt as to whether the UMA having no documents is actually underage, an age assessment (based on a medical approach), is offered. Its outcome is guiding for the remainder of the procedure.
Are UMAs also interviewed by the IND?
In the asylum procedure discussions take place to develop an understanding of the reasons for applying for asylum in the Netherlands. The same is applicable to UMAs. Telling about your journey to the Netherlands and why you fled can be very dramatical. For children, this is even more stressful. The IND staff is aware of this. For that reason, UMAs are only interviewed by specially trained staff members. When the UMA is under the age of 12, the conversation takes place in a child-friendly room and there is room for a tailored approach such as customised questions and extra breaks. A person may be present during the interview for the UMA's support. Usually, this is the guardian or a Nidos staff member or the attorney in some cases. A staff member of the Dutch Council for Refugees may also assume this role.
Apart from that, how does the IND take the child's best interests into consideration in the procedure?
Whatever the outcome of the UMA's application, the interest of the reunion with the family is high on the agenda. In case of a decision to grant the application, the UMA may, in principle, bring his or her parents to the Netherlands.
If there are Dublin indications, the IND takes the UMA's interests into account when determining the country responsible. This implies that the IND staff member makes inquiries into whether family members of the UMA is present in the Dublin country in question with whom the UMA may be reunited. In the Dublin procedure, the IND staff member also takes the UMA's well-being and social development into account
If the UMA's application for asylum is rejected, the Repatriation and Departure Service (DT&V) tries to effect the departure from the Netherlands. Until then, the UMA has a right to accommodation.
What happens if the UMA cannot leave?
Sometimes, following the rejection of an application for asylum, no adequate accommodation can be found for the UMA in the country of origin or in another country. In such cases, the UMA may be eligible for a regular residence permit pursuant to the no-fault policy for UMAs. This applies also to cases where the departure from the Netherlands did not succeed, whereas the UMA actively did his or her best. The conditions are that the UMA is still underage and single and at the moment of the first applications for asylum under the age of 15.