Unaccompanied children from Ukraine

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Ukrainians who have fled their country are allowed to travel to the Netherlands and are entitled to reception and residence in line with the EU Temporary Protection Directive. There are many children among the Ukrainian refugees, including unaccompanied children. These children are vulnerable and in need of extra protection. Several institutions in the Netherlands are responsible for the care and protection of these children. To contribute to proper referral and care, UNICEF the Netherlands has drafted this guidance. It will be updated regularly.

When is a child unaccompanied?

In the Netherlands, unaccompanied minors (‘alleenstaande minderjarige vreemdeling/amv) are legally defined as children from a third country or children who are stateless who arrive in the Netherlands unaccompanied by an adult responsible by law or custom and for as long as they are not effectively taken into the care of such a person, or minors who are left unaccompanied after they entered the Netherlands (EU Family Reunification Directive, article 2(f). Sometimes children are separated from their parents or their previous legal or customary primary caregiver, but accompanied by other family members or caregivers.

Where and how should unaccompanied and separated children receive care in the Netherlands?

Below you will find a detailed step-by-step plan with up-to-date information about where unaccompanied children must be registered and accommodated, and an overview of the responsibilities of different institutions. Most importantly:

  •  Always contact the Child Protection Board if you signal that a child is not staying with his/her parents. For this, please contact the nearest establishment of the Child Protection Board. The Board will assess whether a child is in need of a guardian. The board should always be contacted, whether an unaccompanied child is hosted by a private family or travels with adults other than its parents or guardians.
  • Reception for unaccompanied children who are travelling alone, without parents or without other adult caretaker(s) is arranged by Nidos. Contact Nidos via bureauopvang@nidos.nl or 088-5011265.
  •  Always register an unaccompanied Ukrainian child with a Dutch municipality. In this way, they are included in the Personal Records Database and kept in sight of the authorities. Current information about the registration can be found here.

The information in this step-by-step plan may change and will be adapted accordingly.

   Step 1: Municipality registration

Always register an unaccompanied Ukrainian child with a Dutch municipality (just like all other inhabitants of the Netherlands). In this way, they are included in the Personal Records Database (BRP) and kept in sight of the authorities. Registration in the BRP is also of importance to gain access to a large number of government services such as allowances and benefits. Current information about the registration can be found here.

Please note: After registration in the BRP, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) automatically invites the registered person to submit an asylum application and requests proof for the temporary protection status, which will grant lawful residence in the Netherlands.

    Step 2: Registration at the Child Protection Board

Always contact the Child Protection Board if you suspect that a child is not staying with his/her parents. For this, please contact the nearest establishment of the Child Protection Board. The reason for this is that for all these children, custody in the Netherlands must be arranged. Parental authority means that the legal parent(s) are responsible for raising and taking care of the child. Another person or an institution can also have (temporary) custody.

In municipalities, there may also be children that reside in reception centers together with families who are not their official caretakers. In this case, always contact the Child Protection Board.

Custody investigation

After the child has been registered, the Child Protection Board will conduct a regular or emergency investigation into the child's situation and determine whether custody should be provided. The Board will identify whether the child is an orphan or whether the child has parents/caretakers. In the first case, if necessary, the Board will provide guardianship/custody in the Netherlands. This will then be carried out by Stichting Nidos or William Schrikker Gezinsvormen.

In the second case, the Child Protection Board will try to establish contact with the parents/caretakers. If this is not successful, provisional or temporary custody can be provided in the Netherlands. This means that someone else is formally (and temporarily) responsible for raising and taking care of the child. This is necessary in case parents cannot be reached, but also when there are signs of human trafficking or sexual exploitation. 

Screening host households

To make sure that children from Ukraine end up in a safe place, it is important that host households/families are screened and that they meet the quality requirements in the Netherlands: If an unaccompanied child lives with a host family, the Child Protection Board will do the screening. Based on the screening, the Child Protection Board will determine whether guardianship should be provided. More information regarding the screening can be found here. The screening of host families for children who have fled together with a parent is coordinated via the Red Cross, the Council for Refugees, the Salvation Army, TakecareBnb and NLvoorElkaar (see: “Reception of adults and children in families”).

Adoption

For unaccompanied children, temporary foster care or other official care offers the right protection. Adoption should not take place during or immediately after emergencies. Efforts should be made to reunite children with their families wherever possible. However, this should only be done when reunification is in the best interests of the child. According to Dutch law, adoption is only possible when it is in the best interests of the child. This must be beyond any doubt. Besides that, it must be certain that the child can not expect any care from his or her own parents. Adopting children involves a strict judicial procedure in which the Child Protection Board is involved. The adopting parents are examined as is the situation of the child, whether caretaking by the biological parents is definitely not possible and what is overall in the best interests of the child.

    Step 3: Reception

For all children in the Netherlands, reception must be arranged upon arrival. For unaccompanied or separated children: contact Nidos via bureauopvang@nidos.nl or 088-5011265. Nidos will look for suitable reception for these children in municipalities or elsewhere in the Netherlands. For unaccompanied children without a family or network, Nidos looks for families within the Ukrainian community residing in the Netherlands. Go to the website of Nidos for the registration. Here, you can also find the registration form that you can email to opvangouders@nidos.nl.  There are also reception facilities and (if necessary) protected reception specifically meant for unaccompanied minors. For questions about organizing small-scale reception in your municipality, please contact bureauopvang@nidos.nl.

For unaccompanied or separated children staying with a host family, traveling together or staying with an adult who is not their parent or guardian:

  • when a child is staying with other adults or in a host family and the screening by the Child Protection Board is successful, the host family is allowed to continue taking care of the child. If the screening shows that the child cannot stay with the host family, Nidos or another institution arranges reception for the child.

Reception of adults and children in families

The reception for Ukrainian adults and children in families is arranged differently than the reception of unaccompanied children. Reception facilities at existing locations are made available by the 25 security regions in the Netherlands. Furthermore, special reception facilities are opened by Dutch municipalities, for example in Groningen, Amsterdam and Maastricht. These reception facilities offer places to sleep for people with the Ukrainian nationality and people with a Ukrainian residence permit, such as a Syrian person with an asylum permit in Ukraine or a student from Nigeria with a study permit in Ukraine. Everyone who is entitled to stay in Ukraine is now entitled to reception by the Dutch municipalities.

Refugees can also make use of reception initiatives by Dutch citizens who are willing to accommodate refugees. In order to ensure the safety of these initiatives and to make sure they are in accordance to humanitarian standards, aid organizations coordinate these private initiatives. On the platform www.refugeehelp.com you can find a lot of practical information for Ukrainian refugees staying in the Netherlands. The information on the platform is verified by the Council for Refugees and includes information on housing, legal issues, activities, education, work and more. The platform refers to various organizations that are committed to support refugees from Ukraine. In addition to the provision of information for Ukrainians, private individuals can also offer their assistance via the platform.

Checklist for municipalities

Since municipalities are under a lot of pressure, UNICEF the Netherlands has developed a checklist for child-friendly emergency reception. You are welcome to reach out to noodopvang@unicef.nl for more information and advice.