Travelling to the Netherlands without parent or guardian

Unaccompanied minors (UAMs) are asylum seekers below the age of 18 who were not accompanied by a parent or adult relative when they entered the Netherlands. They came to the Netherlands alone, or together with other children or adult 'strangers', and applied for asylum here. In the Netherlands, these young people are awarded a guardian by the Nidos Foundation.

Young people start in a process reception centre

After entering the Netherlands, unaccompanied minors aged 15 to 18 are first provided accommodation in the central reception centre for UAMs. Young people aged 13 and 14 are also given a place there if Nidos has no immediate foster family available for them. Next, they go to a process reception centre, where they go through the general asylum procedure. There they get guidance from their COA mentor and Nidos guardian.

  • Alleenstaande jongeren in kamer azc
    © Inge van Mill

Next: foster family or small-scale housing facility

After the general asylum procedure, the young people go to different places for reception:

  • Foster families: Nidos places UAMs aged 14 and younger in foster families.
  • Small-scale reception facilities: Nidos places UAMs from the age of 15 with a residence permit in small-scale reception facilities in municipalities.
  • Small-scale housing facilities: the COA places UAMs from the age of 15 without residence permit in small-scale housing facilities. The same goes for UAMs aged 13-14 years for whom Nidos has no foster family available.

The COA and Nidos both share responsibility for the reception and support of unaccompanied minors.

Small-scale housing facilities: in a reception centre, or outside it

In the COA's small-scale housing facilities (kwv) around 16-20 young people live together. The small-scale housing facilities are on the grounds of a reception centre or outside the centre. The small-scale housing facilities outside a reception centre are for UAMs who are younger than 17.5 years when they arrive in the Netherlands. There, young people are given support 24/7. The small-scale housing facilities in a reception centre are for UAMs from the age of 17.5 who are sufficiently independent and need less guidance and support. This way, they can easily transition to the reception centre when they turn 18.

Young people remain in the same region 

The small-scale housing facilities have been divided among regions, with a total reception capacity of no more than 100 persons within a circumference of around 15 km. Whenever possible, we do not transfer young people to another region. This way they can continue to live in the environment they are familiar with, where they go to school, and have social contacts.

  • Alleenstaande minderjarigen krijgen kookles in kleinschalige woonvoorziening
    © Inge van Mill

24/7 guidance and support in small-scale housing facilities

COA staff are available 24 hours a day in the small-scale housing facilities outside the reception centre (for UAMs younger than 17.5 years). They give the young people guidance and support in their development into adulthood. They also prepare them for their future in the Netherlands or their country of origin. Young people who have to leave the Netherlands are supported in this by the Repatriation and Departure Service (DT&V).

Developing competencies

The young people are given a mentor in the small-scale housing facility, who is always around and knows which support they need. The mentor teaches them about Dutch habits and customs. They also work together on skills, such as going to school on time or independently making an appointment with the GP. Young people can also have empowerment training in the small-scale housing facilities or protected reception facility.

The mentor and young person map out the current skills, formulate development objectives and record them in a counselling plan. They coordinate the objectives with the Nidos guardian. With the guidance of their guardian, the young people regularly work on their objectives and enhance their independence in this way. We regularly check whether young people feel safe, because only then will they be able to develop adequately.

Support in daily activities 

Young people in small-scale housing facilities do the same things as Dutch people their age. It is mandatory for them to go to school, so they go to school on weekdays in the international transition class (ISK). They exercise, watch films, or join COA activities or activities in the area. COA staff support the young people in their daily activities. They check, for instance, whether they are getting up on time, eat healthily and clean their room. They also make appointments with the GP and accompany them to meetings at school.

House rules apply in the small-scale housing facilities. The young people have to report twice a day to COA staff, so that we know they're 'home'. 

Human smuggling and trafficking: protected shelter

Unaccompanied minors are vulnerable and can fall victim to human trafficking or smuggling. If there are signs of human trafficking or smuggling, we can put young people in the protected shelter locations.