Vulnerable and unheard: Refugee children and their right to effective participation in asylum procedures


This study considers whether refugee children can participate effectively in asylum
procedures in the Netherlands. Refugee children comprise the most vulnerable group in
the context of the European refugee crisis; they experience a dangerous journey,
traumatic events and often lack access to essential necessities, such as food, shelter,
medical aid and a healthy and stimulating environment for growing up. Refugee children
are also active agents and rights holders, entitled to adequate protection and to effective
participation in asylum procedures. A rights-based perspective counters the sole
protectionist view of refugee children as objects, to instead accord with international
children’s rights standards, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As
such, the vulnerability of refugee children calls for a strong legal position in asylum
Through critical analysis of legal instruments, this study will offer a nuanced
understanding of the meaning of the right to participation for refugee children.
Qualitative methods will be used to study this right in Dutch practice, by collecting the
opinions and experiences of professionals and children. Data gathering will consist of indepth
interviews with 30 professionals, systematic observations of 50 children in asylum
procedures and focus groups with 45 children, ages 8 to 18. In examining refugee
children’s right to participation, this interdisciplinary project thus combines legal deskresearch
with the empirical study of law in practice.
This innovative study will have a three-fold societal impact. 1) The results of this
study will be shared and discussed with practitioners, policymakers and academics in an
expert meeting. 2) Guidelines on how to implement the right to participation will be
formulated and disseminated through a training manual for professionals. 3) For refugee
children entering the Netherlands, a child-friendly brochure will be developed providing
information about their rights and the asylum procedures they face.





Dr. S.E. Rap

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Rechtsgeleerdheid, Instituut voor Privaatrecht


Dr. S.E. Rap


22/01/2018 tot 01/09/2020