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Children’s effective participation in asylum procedures: a long road to walk

Camilla Migliosi

31 Oct 2022

Lecture by Dr. Stephanie Rap

On the 25th of October 2022, Dr. Stephanie Rap gave a lecture at Radboud University as part of the guest lectures provided in the context of the Radboud Law Clinic on Human Rights. Dr. Rap works at the University of Amsterdam as an expert in Forensic Child and Youth Care. Stephanie's research interest lies in the field of the effective participation of children in (judicial) procedures and decision-making.  She is one of the co-authors of the 2021 report on protecting the rights of the child of undocumented migrant and refugee children in Curaçao. The title of the presentation was “Children’s participation in asylum procedures: a children’s rights perspective”.


The lecture aimed at explaining the meaning of the right to participation of children in asylum procedures by describing the research conducted through interviews with professionals working in the asylum procedure in the Netherlands and refugee children. Firstly, Dr. Rap explained the international and European legal safeguards for migrant children: access to justice, effective participation of children, the right to be heard and the right to receive information in a child-friendly manner were some of the provisions discussed. Secondly, the lecturer presented the findings of her qualitative and exploratory study of the role and position of (un)accompanied children in the asylum application procedure in the Netherlands. For her research she interviewed 42 relevant professionals, 21 refugee children and observed 13 video-taped children interviews. The observed interviews were conducted in a child-friendly room. Metacommunication conversation techniques were used to make the children feel as comfortable as possible. At the same time, often refugee children were not provided with basic information based on their age and maturity. Children were asked to provide a lot of information and were posed many ‘why’ questions responses to which they were unlikely to know.    


The lecture concludes that children's right to participation must be seen as a crucial element of their legal standing. Children who are refugees need to know about their right to effective participation especially because they are in a vulnerable situation when seeking asylum abroad. The unique dynamics of the asylum process, which places the burden of proof on children and gives their account and credibility a lot of weight, as well as the disparity of power between the child and the immigration authorities, virtually eliminate meaningful participation.

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