Special reception needs of vulnerable persons


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable persons Last updated: 08/04/22


Dutch Council for Refugees Visit Website

Article 18a RVA refers to Article 21 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive to define asylum seekers considered 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. An investigation into the treatment of LGBTI persons and of converts and apostates has been completed in 2021.[1] The researchers conclude that COA does not pursue a target group policy, but that the organization does pay structural attention to vulnerable groups in reception. With regard to LGBTI asylum seekers, the COA has developed a policy to increase the quality of life at COA locations. Special LGBTI attention officers are available at various COA locations to assist LGBTI asylum seekers and to whom employees can appeal. In addition, COA is committed to promoting the expertise of its employees on the topic. The report concludes that, in comparison to the LGBTI policy, there is less attention in reception for converts and apostates and attention to issues connected to religious freedom is still limited. The researchers recommended opening special LGBTI units, but the COA is not willing to do separate LGBTI persons. Even if willing to consider their wishes (e.g. having a room for themselves or living in the same building as other LGBTI persons), it is impossible to address them given the current reception crisis.[2]

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.[3] 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 asylum seekers cannot wash themselves, they are allowed to make use of the regular home care facilities; the asylum seeker is entitled to the same level of 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.

The COA had accommodated 940 unaccompanied children by the end of 2021,[4] more than twice as many when compared to the end of 2020. This is due to the high influx of UAMs, which has also doubled compared to 2020. The reason behind this rising number remains unclear.[5] COA does experience various difficulties in finding places to accommodate UAMs: there is urgent need for extra reception capacity for unaccompanied minors: 500 extra reception places as of 1 January 2022 and another 100 reception places at the end of 2022 would be needed.[6]

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, the organisation Nidos decides whether he or she should be placed in the protection reception location, under the responsibility of the NGO Yadeborg, contracted by COA. Their services were inspected by the youth support unit (Jeugdzorg), which led to a report in 2017 establishing that still too many children disappear from these locations.[7] Another research shows that 1,190 UAMs left COA locations without reason (MOB-melding) between 2015 and 2018; 50% of the minors left a protection reception location.[8]

[1]  Regioplan and Free University, LGBTIs, converts and apostates in asylum reception, 6 October 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3nhpc6K.

[2] Reaction by the State Secretary to the Research on LGBTIs, converts and apostates in asylum reception, 7 December 2021, KST 19637, No 2801, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3tl7JOr.

[3] Article 3 Reception Act.

[4] COA, “Personen in de opvang uitgesplitst naar leeftijd en land van herkomst”, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2uKH5Cu; COA, “Personen in de opvang uitgesplitst naar leeftijd en land van herkomst”, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/2ipVtYv.

[5] Petra Vissers, ‘Almost twice as much asylum requests from UAMs’, Trouw 25 December 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3zMWaRa

[6] COA, ‘COA: in 2022 the demand for reception locations will continue to increase’, 3 December 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3tluEJH.

[7] Jeugdzorg, De kwaliteit van de beschermde opvang voor alleenstaande minderjarige vreemdelingen Hertoets, September 2017, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/2DCmlw0.

[8] APM (Analyseproeftuin Migratieketen) Report on UAMs leaving reception locations without reason, February 2020, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3HR9yXs.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation