Lili and Howick: The asylum children can stay

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After months of arguing, the Armenian children Lili and Howick have been allowed to stay in the Netherlands. The teenagers, aged 12 and 13, had been hoping for months but Secretary of State Mark Harbers who deals with asylum, stood firm and the courts upheld his decision.

However, at the eleventh hour, he decided to use his special authority on Saturday and the children were allowed to stay here. This seemed the first bit of common sense shown in the whole unseemly episode.

The children came to the Netherlands as infants in 2008. The asylum application of their Armenian mother was rejected, but she resisted leaving. Lili and Howick lived in Amersfoort and went to school there.

Their mother, after years of litigation, was not granted asylum in the Netherlands and was deported last August without her children. According to state secretary Klaas Dijkhoff, the mother herself had made the decision not to leave with the children. Her children went into hiding and would later turn up with a foster family.

In August this year, the Council of State decided that they could be thrown out of the country. But this decision mobilized a large number of people, including politicians who felt that the children belonged here. In Armenia they would be out of place: they do not speak the language and there is no suitable housing for them. Under Dutch law this was not enough for them to stay, but compassion should also be part of law. Unfortunately, it is not and the two children became political footballs as both sides of the asylum debate weighed in.

On the night before the children had to leave, the two went into hiding. The police urged people to assist in finding them before Harbers changed his mind and allowed them to stay.

As if by magic later, the two children came out of hiding. Where they had been has not been made clear.

Whether the mother can return to the Netherlands, for example under the premise of family reunification, is unclear. The ministry will not make any further comment about this at the moment.

But common sense seems to have prevailed. The two children are more Dutch than Armenian. Their life is here. Friends, education, everything they have ever known is Dutch. It is just a shame that politics became involved rather than empathy and common humanity. Mark Harbers seems to have realised this in his sensible decision.

Photo credit: By Zabou [CC BY 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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