More and more extensive asylum procedures for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers

Last update: 14 July 2022

The number of asylum applications by children who have come to the Netherlands without their parents is increasing. Almost 10 percent of the total number of asylum applications in the Netherlands comes from unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. In addition, processing their asylum applications is becoming more extensive. For example, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) must investigate the situation in the country of origin in more detail in connection with possible return after rejection.

From the asylum trends, it becomes clear that 2191 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 2021. Half of them have Syrian nationality. This year, the number of applications has already reached more than 1200. The number of applications for family reunification with unaccompanied minors is also rising. Compared to most other countries in Europe, the Netherlands has been receiving relatively more applications from this young group for several years.

Family reunification most frequently given reason

For an exploratory study (only in Dutch) into the reasons unaccompanied minors have to come to the Netherlands, the IND interviewed a number of IND staff members. From this, and from literature research, the picture emerges that family reunification with parents is one of the most important reasons for unaccompanied minors to apply for asylum.

The Dutch policy for family reunification is very similar to that of other European member states, but has two important differences. In the Netherlands, everyone with a residence status can apply for family reunification, whereas this is subject to more conditions in other countries. In addition, the person with a refugee status applies for family reunification in the Netherlands, whereas in other countries the reunifying family member must submit the application themselves in the country of origin. As a result, unaccompanied minors have the idea that it is easier for them to obtain a permit for themselves and their family in the Netherlands.    

Own choice

It also becomes clear from the interviews that it was not always the unaccompanied minor’s own choice to come to the Netherlands. Some of them were brought here by smugglers without any agreement in advance to which country they would be taken. However, a large portion of the minors seems to have come to the Netherlands on purpose. Children from Syria and Iraq indicate more often in interviews that they were sent on their way by their parents and used a more direct travel route to the Netherlands. Children from Somalia and Eritrea more often indicate they made their own choice to leave. In addition, the latter group also indicate relatively more often in interviews that they wandered through Europe during their journey.

Not straight from the country of origin

It emerges from the interviews that a growing portion of unaccompanied minors does not seem to have come straight from their country of origin. They lived elsewhere (sometimes for a longer period), in refugee camps in the region of their country of origin or in Greece, among other places. They continue to travel because of a sense of insecurity in the host countries, little future perspective in the host countries, or they follow the example of others who continued their travels Europe. 

Processing asylum applications by unaccompanied minors

Early June 2022, the Council of State handed down a ruling on the processing of asylum applications by unaccompanied minors which are not eligible for being granted. In response, the Minister for Migration adapted the policy, see Letter to the House of Representatives (only in Dutch).

Because of this, the IND must now start the investigation into adequate reception in the country of origin immediately at the beginning of the asylum procedure. As a rule, this supplementary investigation will require more processing time for the procedure.

If the picture of the situation in the country of origin does not become sufficiently clear during the procedure, the Repatriation and Departure Service (DT&V) will be asked to carry out further investigation and provide a recommendation about adequate reception. Based on this, the IND must assess the consequences for the decision whether to grant a minor residence status or not.