Coalition parties CDA and ChristenUnie are also prepared to take older children out of Moria refugee camp. The Cabinet wants to accommodate fifty single asylum seekers under the age of 14 in the Netherlands, but MPs tell Nieuwsuur to assume that this age limit is not strictly enforced.
What matters to me is that the Netherlands has indicated: we want to bring the fifty most vulnerable to the Netherlands, says CDA‘er Madeleine van Toorenburg. According to her, these will mainly be small children, but also ‘other vulnerable people‘. She says she is going to ask State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol (Asylum Affairs) to make room for them.
On the Greek mainland there are now 407 young people who travelled alone and stayed in Moria on the island of Lesbos. They were flown over after the devastating fire in the refugee camp. Because of corona infections on Lesvos, they are in quarantine for a fortnight in emergency hotels, waiting to leave for other European countries.
The Netherlands wants to collect 50 people ‘in families with minor children‘ and 50 single young people under the age of 14, with enough chance of asylum. As early as last week, it became apparent that not enough children meet the requirements. Most single children who were on Lesbos are 16 or 17 years old.
Moreover, age says nothing about vulnerability, says Luca Curci, director of the UNHCR refugee organisation in Thessaloniki, where many of the unaccompanied children now reside. A boy of 16 or 17 can be more vulnerable than a child of 14. We do not encourage that kind of fuss. We need to look at individual vulnerability. Who needs the most protection?
For those who need help most urgently, the medical condition is crucial, says Curci. We also look at children who may have been tortured or trafficked. And traumatic events in their home country or during their flight
The most vulnerable group of young people were taken care of in a closed area of Moria:
Despite the ‘shortage‘ of young people under the age of 14 in the Netherlands, the CDA and ChristenUnie may want to pick up more older children. I am not attached to distribution, I am attached to helping vulnerable people, says Van Toorenburg.
One hundred remains one hundred, says Christian Union Member of Parliament Joël Voordewind. We have to wait and see what the relationship will be. We are assuming that that age limit is not applied very strictly
Whether they are 15, 16, 17 or 18, it doesn’t matter‘
State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol does not yet want to commit to abandoning the age limit of 14 years. Together with the Greeks, the supporting Member States and the European Commission, we are now looking at how soon as possible, which people will be transferred where. That is what we are waiting for, writes the Ministry of Justice and Security.
Konstantinidou Despina, director of a health centre with 87 single young people from Moria, is very surprised that the Netherlands is making demands at all on anyone it wants to help. If I help, I help everyone. They are without parents. That is the problem. Nobody supports them. It doesn’t matter whether they are 15, 16, 17 or 18