Dutch asylum policy blamed for suicide

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The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) in the Netherlands stands accused of being responsible for the suicide of a man who died trying to protect his children from deportation.

Alain Hatungimana (36), an asylum seeker from Burundi, took his own life on Monday, the day before he and his two children were due to be sent back to their homeland. According to friends in the Dutch town of Culemborg, Hatungimana had become very depressed as the deportation date drew near and he had told them his life would be in ruins if he returned to Burundi.

It’s thought Hatungimana’s suicide was a last desperate attempt to save his children from deportation. The son reportedly told neighbours that he considers the INS to have murdered his father.

Deaf ears
The family came to the Netherlands five years ago to escape the violence of the civil war between the Hutus and Tutsis, which had already claimed the life of the mother. In August 2011 the municipal council of Culemborg asked Immigration Minister Gerd Leers to exercise his powers of discretion to allow the family to settle in the Netherlands. But their plea fell on deaf ears.

Future of children unclear
Fourteen-year-old Abdillah and his 12-year-old sister Maimuna have now lost both their parents and at this point it’s unclear whether they will be allowed to remain in the Netherlands or sent back to Burundi. In the meantime, they have been taken into foster care. The council points out that they have integrated successfully into the community and Abdillah is a member of a local football club. [related-articles]

“It's terrible what has happened,'' said a spokeswoman for the municipality. “We’ll do everything possible to keep the children in the Netherlands. If we as a council can play a role, we’ll certainly do that.''

On Thursday some of the children’s teachers attended Alain Hatungimana’s funeral in Utrecht.

The Immigration Ministry in the Hague says it regrets the suicide. A spokesperson told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that the deportation had been postponed pending Hatungimana's appeal against the decision to send him home. The spokesperson added that Hatungimana was suffering from psychiatric problems and that he had taken his life in the clinic where he was treated.