Children in reception centres

About a quarter of our residents are younger than 18 years. They live with a family or alone (unaccompanied minors) in reception centres. Children are far from home and do not yet speak the language when they arrive in the Netherlands. They miss their friends, family, grandfathers and grandmothers. They are uncertain about their future and have often been through a lot. But the children must also be able to be a real child.

School and game

Of course, the parents are responsible for their children. But the COA also has responsibilities: children need a safe place to live, learn and play. The children lead a life that is as 'normal' as possible.

The reception areas have playgrounds for children and there are regular activities for children. Some of these activities are made possible through the subsidies from the European Asylum, Migration and Integration funds (AMIF).

For all children in the Netherlands applies that they have the obligation to go to school, so the children in an asylum seekers' centre also go to school. A primary school is linked to each centre, but parents may also choose a school for their child. Upon their arrival in the Netherlands, the children between the ages of 12 and 18 go to the international transition class. As soon as they speak enough Dutch, they are referred to a suitable form of education.


Our employees know the adults and children in the reception centre. Knowing our residents contributes to their safety. If there is a suspicion of domestic violence or child abuse, we will report it.

Move to a new place

The COA is aware of the impact that a move has on children. That is why we limit the number of moves for children and young people as much as possible. If moving is inevitable, we provide guidance to the families in this process. For example, we inform children about the move, the new location and activities at and around that location.

Unaccompanied minor foreign nationals

Unaccompanied minors are asylum seekers under the age of 18, who are not accompanied by a parent or an adult or a blood relative when they enter the Netherlands. They receive special guidance and live in separate reception centres fot youngsters. The youngsters are under the guardianship of Nidos.


We work together with other organisations in the interest of the children in the shelter. For example, the Dutch Council for Refugees provides information on the asylum procedure and children's rights in the Time4You project. The Happiness foundation organises creative and musical activities at a number of locations. Warchild, Unicef and Save the Children offer sports and games activities for children and young people in the Team Up project.