Contact person for children
The COA sees children as a vulnerable group that deserves extra attention. That is why at least one COA employee has been appointed as a 'contact person for children' in every reception centre where children reside. This colleague has a coordinating role in organizing activities and information for children. The contact person for children is also the first point of contact for cooperation partners.
Children's rights and survey
Every child, no matter who they are or where they live, has the same rights: that is agreed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. COA, together with the Working Group Child in the azc, has carried out a survey into the living conditions of children in asylum seekers’ centres in 2018 and 2021.
Children of school age must go to school. Most asylum seekers’ centres are linked to a primary school, but parents can also make their own choice of school for their child. After arrival in the Netherlands, children between 12 and 18 years old first attend the international transition class. As soon as they speak sufficient Dutch, they move on to a suitable form of education.
Open learning centre: homework and games
In every asylum seekers’ centre there is an open learning centre with computers where children can quietly do their homework or play a game under supervision.
Just enjoy playing
A child wants to play. That is why we have a range of sports, games, art and music in all asylum seekers’ centres. There is also a playground and outdoor playing materials. There are also activity rooms with materials for children's activities. There is a playroom for children aged 1,5 to 4 years in or outside the reception centre.
Fun activities with collaborative partners
Our cooperation partners also organise activities for children. The National Foundation for the Promotion of Happiness, for example, organises activities with art and music at a number of locations. War Child, Save the Children and UNICEF offer sports and games activities in their TeamUp project. The Dutch Council for Refugees organises the project Time4You and holiday weeks for children and one-parent families every year.
In addition, the COA works at local level together with neighbourhood centres, sport clubs and volunteers' organisations.
If children want to play with someone from outside the asylum seekers’ centre, that is of course possible. Child visitors are welcome in the reception centre under the supervision of an adult or with written permission from their parents or guardians. Young people from 14 years old are required to identify themselves.
Resilience: rock and water
In the asylum seekers’ centre, children and young people can follow a resilience-training course if they need it. Such as the training course ‘Rock and Water’ in which children work on standing firmly, breathing, self-confidence and strength, asking for help and setting boundaries. There are training courses for children in different age groups. For example, there are 'Stoeikruimels' for children aged 4-7, training courses for children aged 8-12 and training courses for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
Information about living in the asylum seekers’ centre
In the "Guide for minis", "Guide for kids" and "Guide for teens" we inform parents and children about living in the asylum seekers’ centre. In addition, children in the reception centre receive the comic book 'I'm just trying to live', with tips and helpful information about life at a COA centre. The comic book has been written for children and young people from 10 to 23 years old and covers topics such as stress, school, leisure, house rules and love. It also says in the comic book where children and young people can go with questions. It is available in French, English, Farsi, Tigrinya and Arabic.
We make a weekly schedule for our residents, young and old, with all the activities that we organize in the asylum seekers’ centre. It contains as little text as possible and we use many icons. In this way, you can understand it if you do not speak Dutch very well yet. The weekly schedule is posted on the bulletin board and can be found on MyCOA, the website specially made for asylum seekers.
Swimming lesson and safety
COA facilitates swimming lessons for children and young people up to the age of 18 at many locations. The goal is to obtain the ABC diplomas so that children can swim safely. Asylum seekers’ centres cooperate with the local municipality, schools and swimming pools. In 4 fun and appealing vlogs about swimming safety, we inform young residents about the risks of swimming. In the asylum seekers’ centre we also provide information about other hazards in and around the reception location such as traffic, fire, fireworks, natural ice and poisonous mushrooms in the woods.
Use of colour in asylum seekers’ centres
An asylum seekers’ centre must be child-friendly and liveable. Colour contributes to making meeting and activity spaces more accessible to children and young people. An organisation developed a colour concept for the COA which we have used to brighten up 34 reception locations. The use of colour is now a standard prerequisite for the (re) development of asylum seekers’ centres.
Young people: 24/7 guidance in small residential facilities
After the general asylum procedure, unaccompanied minor asylum seekers go to a reception family, a small-scale reception centre of Nidos, or a small COA housing facility. We assist them 24/7 in their development into adulthood.