Junior minister unjustly celebrated in the Netherlands 

In some misleading headlines, the Netherlands has celebrated Junior Justice Minister Mark Harbers for allowing 59 asylum seekers who don't fit the rules for refugee status residency to stay in the country. 

Lara Bullens
Lara Bullens NewsMavens, Western Europe
Junior minister unjustly celebrated in the Netherlands  - NewsMavens
Mark Habers, Thijs van Exel, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Mark Harbers has the discretionary power to allow people who don't fit the conditions for refugee status to stay in the Netherlands. He has used it 26 times so far this year, granting a total of 59 asylum seekers the right to stay since he took office last year.

Articles read "thanks to Harbers, 59 asylum seekers can stay". But it is imperative to look behind the numbers at what's really going on in the Netherlands right now. 

His predecessor Klaas Dijkhoff gave 240 rejected asylum seekers residency permits out of the 780 cases submitted to him over a two year period and, before Dijkhoff, Fred Teeven (who held the post for three years) used this discretionary power 300 times. 

Details from the story:

  • Mark Harbers has granted a total of 59 asylum seekers the right to stay since he took office last October 
  • The action includes the long-awaited outcome for two Armenian teenagers, Lili (12) and Howick (13), whose mother was deported last year. She endured a decade-long legal battle for asylum and was sent to Armenia without her children. They have lived in the Netherlands for 10 years but didn’t meet the conditions for child amnesty.
  • Children in the Netherlands qualify for amnesty if they have lived in the country for over five years under the supervision of an official organisation and are under the age of 18. Being in touch with local councils and attending schools are not sufficient qualifications, given that these institutions don't work directly with immigration policy and therefore are not considered "official". 
  • What's more, if parents cooperate with the authorities and agree to go back to their country of origin, then they can no longer request amnesty for their child. Yet if the family refuses to cooperate during deportation, their children are no longer eligible for amnesty. It's a catch-22. 
  • Prime minister Mark Rutte announced on Monday that the cabinet doesn’t plan on changing the rules, despite heavy criticism from opposition MPs, aids groups and even celebrities like Princess Laurentien
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