IND hearings cause asylum children unnecessary stress

By Casper van der Veen
Casper van der Veen's stories

This article was published in the Dutch newspaper NRC on August 25, 2022. It was written by Casper van der Veen in Dutch and translated to English by Niels Bekkema. We thank the NRC for their permission to republish it as part of the GOAT PoL.

Researchers: IND hearings cause asylum children unnecessary stress

Refugee children and adolescents often experience unnecessary stress at hearings conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). This is partly because questions are unclear and often do not match the child’s developmental level. This is the conclusion of Stephanie Rap, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences at the University of Amsterdam. She conducted four years of research and presents her findings Thursday afternoon.

Rap spoke with 21 young people and 42 staff members over the past four years. She was given access by the IND to thirteen hearings with children under twelve. “It is often insufficiently clear in the hearings what is expected and asked of them,” Rap told NRC by phone, after Trouw published about the study earlier. “The purpose of the interview is not clear and many of the often very detailed questions are difficult to understand.”

This includes questions about the dates and places of birth of family members, questions about the country of origin or about “ethnicity” – a concept that is often completely unfamiliar to young children in particular. Because minors often do not flee directly to the Netherlands, but first stay in other countries, questions about their country of origin are often difficult to answer. “A lot of closed questions are used, which doesn’t get a conversation going properly,” says Rap. “Also, a lot of why questions are asked, while young people often don’t understand at all why things happen.” Currently, approximately eleven thousand children reside in asylum facilities, although not all of them are heard by the IND.


The minors being questioned often experience a stressful period, according to Rap. “As a result, they often wonder if they have given the right answer and are therefore even more in fear and uncertainty,” Rap says. She understands that the IND needs to ask questions to see if asylum seekers are eligible for residence status. “But now the questions are not well adapted to the perception and developmental level of young people. If the IND would ask the questions in a different way, more information would come out – that is better for the IND as well.”

The IND must adhere to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child during interviews. Article 12 of that treaty states that minors have the right to be heard and should be able to say what they want freely in a child-friendly environment. According to Rap, a lot can be improved in this area. “They are heard, so they can indeed exercise that right, but not in the way that suits their capacities.”

Rap worked with the IND for her research and hopes that even after the presentation, she will be able to think further with the organization about how to do things better. “Better training of employees in interview techniques, on how to interview children, can quickly yield gains,” Rap says. “Not all information supply comes from the IND, but also, for example, from the Dutch Refugee Council and other aid organizations; that could be better streamlined.”

3 September, 2022