Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Vulnerable and unheard: Refugee children and their right to effective participation in asylum procedures

What are the conceptual and practical implications of the right to participation in asylum procedures for refugee children in the Netherlands?

2018 - 2021
NWO Vernieuwsingsimpuls VENI NWO Vernieuwsingsimpuls VENI
Gratama Stichting/Leids Universitair Fonds Gratama Stichting/Leids Universitair Fonds

This study considers whether refugee children can participate effectively in asylum procedures in the Netherlands. Refugee children comprise the most vulnerable group in the context of the European refugee crisis; they experience a dangerous journey, traumatic events and often lack access to essential necessities, such as food, shelter, medical aid and a healthy and stimulating environment for growing up. Refugee children are also active agents and rights holders, entitled to adequate protection and to effective participation in asylum procedures. A rights-based perspective counters the sole protectionist view of refugee children as objects, to instead accord with international children’s rights standards, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As such, the vulnerability of refugee children calls for a strong legal position in asylum procedures.

Through critical analysis of legal instruments, this study will offer a nuanced understanding of the meaning of the right to participation for refugee children. Qualitative methods will be used to study this right in Dutch practice, by collecting the opinions and experiences of professionals and children. Data gathering will consist of in-depth interviews with 30 professionals, systematic observations of 50 children in asylum procedures and focus groups with 45 children, ages 8 to 18. In examining refugee children’s right to participation, this interdisciplinary project thus combines legal desk-research with the empirical study of law in practice.

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