Article 18a RVA refers to Article 21 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive to define asylum seekers considered to be vulnerable. With the exception of specialised accommodation for unaccompanied children, the COA does not provide separate reception centres for women, LGBTI persons or other categories – although there have been calls for their creation.
However, employees of the COA have to make sure that a reception centre provides an adequate standard of living as the COA is responsible for the welfare of the asylum seekers. In practice, this means that the COA considers the special needs of the asylum seekers. For example, if an asylum seeker is in a wheelchair the room will be on the ground floor. Besides that, if an asylum seeker, for instance, cannot wash himself due to whatever reason, he is allowed to make use of the regular home care facilities; the asylum seeker is entitled to the same health care as a Dutch national.
Reception of unaccompanied children
Unaccompanied children younger than 15 are accommodated in foster families and are placed with those families immediately.
Unaccompanied children between 15 and 18 years old are initially accommodated in a special reception location (POL-amv). Children are guided by their guardian of Stichting Nidos, the guardianship agency, and by the Dutch Council for Refugees. They stay in this POL-amv during their procedure for a maximum of 7 weeks. If their application is rejected, they go to small housing units (kleine woonvoorziening). The small housing units fall under the responsibility of the COA and are designed for children between the age of 15 and 18 years old, often of different nationalities. These small housing units are located in the area of a larger AZC, at a maximum distance of 15km. The capacity of the small housing units is between 16 and 20 children. The total number of children housed in the small housing and the AZC cannot exceed 100.
A mentor is present 28.5 hours a week. If unaccompanied children receive a residence permit, Nidos is responsible for their accommodation. Due to low capacity, 2016 and 2017 have been a transition period in which the COA was also providing accommodation for unaccompanied children with refugee status.
At the end of 2019, 561 unaccompanied children were accommodated by the COA, compared to 1,230 at the end of 2016.
Protection reception locations
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are extra vulnerable with regard to human smuggling and trafficking. Children who have a higher risk of becoming a victim, based on the experience of the decision-making authorities, are therefore placed in protection reception locations (beschermde opvang). The children are living in small locations, with 24/7 professional guidance available. When a child arrives at Ter Apel, Nidos decides whether he or she should be placed in the protection reception location. This reception is carried out by Jade, contracted by COA. Their services were inspected by the youth support unit (Jeugdzorg) which led to a report in 2017, in which the inspection concluded that still too many children disappear from these locations.