Children’s rights in The Netherlands

This article is a summary of the report on Children’s Rights in The Netherlands

The list of pre-reporting issues (LOIPR) is the result of extensive consultation between Dutch non-governmental organizations (NGOs), youth and experts by the Dutch NGO Children’s Rights Coalition.

More than 80 NGOs and experts have contributed and/or approved the LOIPR.

The Caribbean Netherlands

1- Matters of Concern BES Islands

UNICEF Netherlands conducted situational analyzes (SitAns) in 2018-2019 to assess the level of child rights compliance in the Caribbean Netherlands since 2013, at the request of the governments of the State and the BES islands. Worrying issues are mentioned below,

  • Poverty and the lack of a social minimum as a benchmark for poverty policy

Many children on the islands are estimated to still grow up in poverty, which could limit their access to basic necessities such as food and clothing.

  • Inadequate access to childcare and after school facilities

In Bonaire, 62% of children aged 0 to 4 have access to childcare. In St. Eustatius this is 67% and in Saba 80%.

While 25% of children (5-12 years old) participate in after-school care programs in Bonaire, 50% in St. Eustatius and 80% in Saba.

The government runs the “BES (t) 4 children” program to provide high quality, safe and affordable childcare and after-school care facilities for 0-12 year olds in the Caribbean Netherlands.

  • Lack of legislation prohibiting child maltreatment and corporal punishment

There is no legislation prohibiting corporal punishment in the BES islands.

  • Çocuk Ceza Hukuku

At the end of 2019, juvenile criminal law will enter into force, preventing minors from obtaining criminal records.


The European Netherlands


2- Lack of information on children’s rights

Only 34% of the youth say they know the CRC. Adults have no knowledge of children’s rights due to lack of education.

3- Not Ensuring the Transformation of Youth Care Due to Lack of Expertise and Finance

It is a lack of vision regarding the role of government in supporting the upbringing and education of children.

4- reservations regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The reservations made by articles 26, 37, and 40 of the CRC are still in force. These articles cover the child’s right to social security, the prohibition of applying adult criminal law to children aged 16 and over, and the child’s right to legal aid.

5- Minimal Monitoring

The current method of data collection, children’s enrolment groups, makes it impossible to develop a targeted policy or evaluate the policy’s effectiveness.

6- Children’s Rights Are Insufficiently Guaranteed in Business and Trade Policy

The wide variety of children’s rights that may or may be violated in companies’ production chains are not adequately protected by the government.


General Principles

7- Meaningful Participation of Children and Young People in Policy and Practice

In the Netherlands, the participation of children and young people is gaining more and more attention. Still, meaningful participation of children in all aspects of policy and practice is not yet structurally guaranteed.

Child participation is also fragmented in municipalities. It differs by region, by municipality, and within municipalities.

8- Punishment According to the Activities of Child Parents

In the Netherlands, children appear to be punished for the activities of their parents, although there are situations in which punishment is not allowed under Article 2.2 of the CRC. An example is the birth of a child with (part of) parents / family who do not have resident status in the Netherlands

9- Inadequate Enforcement of Immigration Law in the Best Interest of Children

The best interests of the child (BIC) is not adequately covered in immigration law. A bill to protect BIC in immigration law has been pending since 2016, but has not yet received sufficient political support.

10- Insufficient Protection of Child Rights Defenders in Foreign Policy

In some countries, adequate care is not taken to protect these children who are in danger due to their activities.

11- Damage to Children Deported from the Netherlands after a Five-Year Residence

University research (2018) concluded that the expulsion of children staying in the Netherlands for more than five years has resulted in developmental harm.



12- Child Maltreatment and Domestic Violence

Between 90,000 and 127,000 children experienced some form of child abuse in 2017.

13- Abused children do not receive timely and adequate assistance

Waiting lists and non-timely and assistance are the result of a tight municipal budget, insufficient co-operation between authorities, or the problems of necessary – and sometimes more expensive, specialist care.

14- Prevention of Child Abuse and domestic violence is missing in many municipalities

The Children’s Ombudsman’s Office reported this in 2014 and 2017.


Family Situations and Alternative Care

15- Inadequate cooperation and adaptation in youth care and other areas

In order to provide adequate care for children, it is important that the transformation in youth care is carried out functionally. This has not been done successfully enough.

16- Food industry inadequately protects Children from Marketing of Unhealthy Foods

A total of 11.7% of Dutch children (4-17 years old) are overweight and 2.7% of them are obese.

The food industry affects children’s diets through marketing techniques for selling foods and beverages rich in sugar, salt and fat.

17- information about origin not Available to All Children

The sale of children for exploitation is a criminal offence in the Netherlands.

There is no general prohibition in the Criminal Code on the sale of children, including for adoption purposes; This means that intermediaries or parents who earn money from the adoption process cannot be avoided.

18-Poverty among children continues to exist due to the lack of national vision and unequal access to (effective) poverty policy for children in municipalities.

In the Netherlands, a total of 292,000 children are growing up in poverty, 117,000 of them in a long-term low-income family (at least four years in a row). Despite the economic growth in recent years, this number has hardly decreased.

In the Netherlands, childcare allowance provisions are complex to apply and difficult to access. Families face the risk of repayment if there is a (minimum) increase in income.



19- The education system is inadequate for children with disabilities

A concrete plan for the realization of inclusive education is missing. Also, a legal definition and aims of inclusive education have yet to be studied.

For many children there is no place in education. In 2017-2018, a total of 14,265 children ‘stayed at home’, of which 5,576 were exempted from compulsory education for physical or psychological reasons, and 4,515 students were included in the ‘absolute absenteeism’ category.

20- Unequal Opportunities and Differentiation in Education

When it comes to choosing a secondary school for a primary school student, recommendations for children who score evenly on their final exam are structurally different for children with parents with higher or lower education. The lower educated parent group usually includes non-Western children. This leads to inequality.

21- Quality of education under pressure due to lack of teachers

Performance in primary and secondary education is steadily decreasing. There is an increasing shortage of teachers. Some schools pass four days to one school week due to shortages.

The full-time teacher deficit is expected to rise to 4,100 in 2022 and 11,000 in 2027.



22- Online-sexual harassment of children is on the rise

The Netherlands ranks in the top three in the list of countries where sexual abuse images of children are hosted on the website.

The number of notifications to the police increased from around 3,000 in 2014 to about 18,000 in 2017.

23- Inadequate measures to reduce human trafficking

Municipalities have the authority to care for victims of human trafficking and to combat perpetrators. However, 95% of municipalities do not have specific policies for this.

24- Lack of Legal Representative at all stages of the penal procedure

Some children questioned by the police do not have access to a lawyer.

25- Children are still often waiting in police cells

Children are still kept in police cells very often and for too long, where almost no attention is paid to their age and vulnerability.

26- Excessive pressure in young care

There is a growing concern in the implementation of measures that restrict children’s freedom (room placements, isolation, limited phone and internet use, and room controls), particularly in residential youth care facilities and mental health institutions.

27- Asylum Centers are not child friendly enough

The joint research of the Children Working Group in refugee centers raised the following concerns about the living conditions of 7,000 refugee children.

–   Access to mental health services

  • Lack of privacy due to prolonged sharing of living spaces puts pressure on family relationships;
  • Activities offered in refugee centers do not meet the needs of children;

28- The children are still in custody

Although the Dutch government has stated that detention of foreign children is used only as a last resort, practice (sometimes) shows the opposite.

29- Unaccompanied Foreign Children

The removal of the special residence permit (AMV-vergunning) for Unaccompanied Foreign Children (UMFNs) in 2013, in order to provide faster clarity in their situation, did not improve the situation.

30- Further Disappearance of Unaccompanied Foreigners

The number of Unaccompanied Foreign Nationals (UMFNs) disappearing is increasing every year. 360 people disappeared in 2017.

The daily newspaper ‘NRC’ reported that more than 1,600 asylum-seeking children have fled reception places in the last 4.5 years.




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