Researchers warn against damage to children who are deported after a long stay in the Netherlands

Dozens of professors and three professional organizations endorse ‘damage memo’

12/06/2018 | 12:45 PM

This summer, the case of Howick and Lili, two Armenian children who were threatened with deportation after they had lived in the Netherlands for ten years, drew attention to the plight of some 400 other children who have been in the Netherlands for over five years but are ineligible for the Children's Pardon. A coalition of researchers from various disciplines have endorsed a report that was published today stating that the emotional, social and physical development of these children can be seriously damaged if they are deported and that this makes deportation irresponsible.

'We hope that this damage memo will help the people concerned to form an academically sound decision about children under the threat of deportation after spending a long period living in the Netherlands', says one of the instigators, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology Erik Scherder. 'The chronic stress that these children suffer after having put down firm roots can have serious consequences for the development of their brains', says Scherder. 'This in itself makes it even more difficult for them to adjust to new surroundings after deportation.'

Deportation is irresponsible
The writers of the report, ‘Risk of damage to long-stay children after deportation. Multidisciplinary scientific evidence’, conclude that the constant stress and lack of stability suffered by children who are under threat of deportation after spending years living in the Netherlands makes them extremely vulnerable. Assistant Professor of Orthopedagogy Elianne Zijlstra: ‘The years that the children spend worrying about enforced deportation can cause serious damage to their development. It has huge implications for the way they function, both now and in the future. Current scientific evidence shows that deporting children who have been in the Netherlands for several years is irresponsible to say the least.’

Wide support
The damage memo was written by Erik Scherder, professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), Elianne Zijlstra and Carla van Os, both of whom work at the University of Groningen’s Research and Expertise Centre for Children and Immigration Law. The memo was endorsed by over 35 professors in the fields of neuropsychology, developmental psychology, psychology, psychiatry, orthopedagogy and other related fields.

The professional organizations for psychologists and special education experts have called for knowledge from the damage memo to be used when making decisions about these children. The professional association for doctors in youth health services (Artsen Jeugdgezondheidszorg Nederland or AJN) has also endorsed the damage memo.