Growing support for children’s amnesty

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More than 25 local councils have expressed support for an amnesty for underage asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected.

The councils believe young asylum seekers who have lived most of their lives in the Netherlands should not be sent back to their country of origin - where they usually do not even speak the language.

The 25 local councils include major cities such as Enschede, Eindhoven, Arnhem, Utrecht, Amsterdam en Breda. The councillors in these cities have called on their mayors to raise the issue with Immigration Minister Gerd Leers.

A petition on the internet has been signed by 118,000 people. The petition is an initiative of Green Left MP Tofik Dibi, and is supported by various entertainers, writers and sports figures. Mr Dibi launched the petition just before Christmas after failing to convince the immigration minister to grant asylum to Angolan boy Mauro, a case that received widespread national attention.

Tofik Dibi’s petition is meant to help other such children before their case hits the headlines. Estimates of how many children such a pardon would affect vary depending on the criteria - it could be as many as several thousand.

According to the regulations, Immigration Minister Gerd Leers has no choice but to have these children deported. But he does have discretion to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to grant asylum on humanitarian grounds. That is how the coalition government would like it to stay.

Geert Wilders' Freedom Party agreed to support this coalition on the condition that immigration would be dramatically reduced. The last thing the Freedom Party wants is another amnesty for asylum seekers.

This would not be the first amnesty. In 2006, parliament approved an amnesty on humanitarian grounds, for which around 28,000 asylum seekers qualified. The current initiative involves a much smaller group, however, and the Dutch public is more sensitive to cases involving children.


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