More asylum applications by unaccompanied minor foreign nationals

Last update: 12 October 2023

Last month more minors travelled without their parents to the Netherlands in order to apply for asylum (915) than in the months and years before. To date in 2023 the number of applications by unaccompanied minor foreign nationals (UMFN) has been higher each month than in the same month of the preceding year. Not only in numbers, but also relatively, more UMFN submit asylum applications. In 2023 to date they account for approximately 15% of first asylum applications. This was approximately 12% in 2022. 

The number of asylum applications by minors has been increasing for a longer time. Up to and including September of this year, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) received almost 4000 applications from children under the age of 18 (3,864). This is almost equal to the total number of applications by unaccompanied children travelling in 2022 (4,210). In 2021 there were still approximately half of this (2,191). 

This is evident from the Asylum Trends that the IND publishes on a monthly basis.

Mainly Syrian children

Syrian unaccompanied minor asylum seek constitute the largest group by far. In the past years on average almost half of the UMFN were of Syrian origin. In 2023 to date 1,865 (48%) are Syrian children. The second largest nationality is Eritrean (19%), followed afterwards by the Somalian (10%), Iraqi (6%) and Yemenite (3%) nationalities.

Investigation into the increase

Unaccompanied minor foreign nationals usually have family in their countries of origin. The number of applications by UMFN for family reunification with brothers and sisters up to and including August was over 6000 (6,080), compared to 3,850 in the same period last year. It appears that increasingly more families deliberately choose to send a child ahead of them to apply for asylum. 

The IND cannot determine the exact cause of the increase in the number of unaccompanied minor foreign nationals. The Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) is going to conduct a preliminary investigation into this. 

Concerns about traumas 

Niels Krouwel, responsible for UMFN within the Asylum and Protection Department of the IND has concerns about the increase. “These children have often been through a lot already at an early age. They feel that they bear responsibility for the whole family, who are still in the country of origin. In the interviews we take into account that many children are bothered by traumas, and deal differently with them than adults. Staff members who interview children are specially trained for and specialised in this. Not everyone can do that work.”

Additional staff members and adjusted schedule

The IND is deploying additional staff members to deal with the increased number of asylum applications by UMFN. The scheduling of cases has also been adjusted. Experienced staff members now do an initial screening to determine how complex an application is. Accelerated processing of less complex applications is sometimes possible. 

Increase in asylum applications

Many asylum seekers have come to the Netherlands for a longer time. The IND has to decide on many more asylum applications than those for which the organisation is equipped. Because of this applicants, including children, have to wait increasingly longer. Consequently, things remain very busy, not only at the IND but also in the reception centres for asylum seekers.