‘Children come out of asylum worse than when they come in’

In the car park for visitors at the registration center in Ter Apel, where a temporary tent camp has been set up, children are kept employed by the De Vrolijkheid Foundation.Statue of Harry Cock / de Volkskrant

The living conditions of refugee children in emergency accommodation in the Netherlands are ‘below par’. More than eighty professionals in youth health care and education conclude this in a study conducted by Working Group Child in azc, which is published today on World Refugee Day.

Children in emergency care receive demonstrable developmental injuries and have insufficient access to education and care. They are drawn from hot to her and sometimes go out of school for several months. Some children also become malnourished because they do not like and eat the food offered.

The Kind in az working group, in which several aid organizations for children work together, calls on the government to immediately remove the more than two thousand children from the emergency centers and transfer them to ‘small-scale, stable and permanent asylum care’. According to the professionals surveyed, the interests of asylum children are currently under severe pressure. ‘Children come out of our shelter worse than when they enter’, one of them even remarked.

Inspectors write fire letters about poor asylum reception for children

According to the Danish Justice and Security Agency and the Danish Health and Youth Agency, there is also a lack of care for children and young people in asylum reception. The organizations on Monday called on Secretary of State Eric van der Burg (Asylum) to intervene.

Due to the great pressure on the front desk, the staff are not able to provide adequate reception and guidance than they should. The inspections found several assaults. Minors experience stress or even violence and have inadequate access to care and education.

According to the inspectors, children often have to sleep too long in night homes. It was found that three times as many unaccompanied minors stayed in the central reception center in Ter Apel as intended. According to the inspectors, they are not cared for properly: their rooms get dirty, it is often not possible to eat together, and insecure situations arise because groups of children and young people quarrel with each other.

Last month, the House of Representatives adopted a proposal that also draws attention to the grim situation in which refugee children are in emergency shelters. In this letter, the Cabinet is asked to transfer the children to stable and smaller locations as soon as possible. But instead, the government looks set to invest in a few new, large-scale emergency shelters, it sounded last week.

Feeling insecure, sleeping poorly

Research shows that many children feel insecure due to lack of privacy and sleep poorly due to noise at night. Education staff do not know how long a child should stay in a shelter, which means that education does not always begin. This means that not all refugee children are in school within three months. According to teachers, children who go to school often suffer from concentration problems. Sometimes they even fall asleep in class.

‘Poor nutrition’ in shelters is also mentioned as a major problem. Children from distant lands are not familiar with Dutch food. As a result, some people eat poorly, get too few nutrients, lose weight and end up in poor health. Due to lack of living money and their own cooking facilities, their parents have no control over this. They are very concerned about the health of their children.

Almost no access to care

The situation is also ‘dramatic’ with access to care, according to the research report. According to pediatricians and adolescent nurses, there is only ‘a limited medical intake’. In addition, there are few or no options for referring to necessary specialist medical care, such as psychiatric adolescents, youth care and speech therapists.

Almost all professionals say they work with families who have moved more than three times between emergency centers in a year. ‘Families often move suddenly before the desired care can be put in place’, according to one of them.

They also see children becoming isolated and suffering from psychosocial disorders. ‘Children are increasingly victims of the crisis in asylum reception’, concludes Arja Oomkens, coordinator of the Child Work Group in the asylum seeker center. ‘We’ve been ringing the alarm bells since last summer. Authorities and professionals agree that it can not continue like this, but no one comes up with a solution. That is unacceptable. ‘

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