The annual indicator for the situation of children in the Netherlands by Defence for Children and UNICEF Netherlands shows progress, but help to vulnerable children is often still insufficient.
"Although Prime Minister Rutte's third cabinet explicitly pays attention to children in the coalition agreement, greater efforts are needed, in several areas: from child abuse to youth care, juvenile criminal law, migration and exploitation," Suzanne Laslo, director of UNICEF Netherlands, said in commenting to the Report on Children's Rights 2018, which was published on 19 June in The Hague.
Aloys van Rest, director of Defense for Children, said, “All children have the same rights. It cannot be the case that in a prospering country like the Netherlands, the rights of different groups of children are set aside."
Every year, 119,000 children in the Netherlands become victims of child abuse. The minister of health, welfare and sport, Paul Blokhuis, has identified the approach to child abuse as an absolute priority.
This is a good step, but much more is needed to prevent abuse as much as possible, and to offer timely assistance to victims. Possible measures are more national management, more capacity and better quality of care.
Not all children have access to appropriate youth care, which they are entitled to it. To make this possible, national demands regarding youth care have to be formulated.
In addition, children and teenagers must be able to independently claim social security and the interests of the child must be central to poverty and debt policy.
Juvenile criminal law
When it comes to underage suspects, the Netherlands does not yet comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Young people sometimes have to wait a year for the court-ordered intervention or alternative punishment.
In addition, DNA material is still being collected from minors by default, and minors are still being tried as adults in criminal cases.
Yet we also see progress: the number of children arrested by the police and staying in a police cell has decreased considerably, from more than 7,000 in 2016 to around 5,000 in 2017.
The number of police interrogations has been decreasing for years, as has the number of children locked up in a judicial youth institution: only half compared to five years ago.
Defense for Children and UNICEF Netherlands are concerned about a number of disquieting issues that have emerged from the research in the area of migration: in 2017, for example, no residence permits were granted to single children who cannot return to their country of origin.
The criteria of the "own fault" policy are now far too strict; last year, forty children were deported to Afghanistan, ten of them on their own. And this while the country has become much more dangerous in the past few years. This is only a small selection of alarming results.
Since 2012, 150 specialized police officers have been working on the issue of child pornography and child sex tourism. Although the number of child pornography reports has since increased by 800 percent, no detective has been added.
The number of children who disappear from asylum centers is also high, with 400 minors disappearing last year. This has to stop. A government-wide approach must also be developed to provide better support for foreign child victims of human trafficking and to prevent criminal exploitation of children.
Once again, there are no figures to be able to get a complete picture of the children's rights situation in the Caribbean part of the Netherlands. There is no data on youth assistance, child protection and juvenile rehabilitation. Just like figures for migration and exploitation.
A data registration system with which the welfare of children on the islands can be monitored, must become a priority for the Dutch government.