Current topics explained by RUG professionals

Nemr: The boy that wants to stay

Vlogger Tim Hofman made a documentary about Nemr, the boy that will be sent back to Iraq. Nemr asked the Lower House the same question we all have: why can’t he stay? What are the consequences Nemr will face if he has to go back? And what impact will this documentary have?
By Christine Dirkse

Viola Bex-Reimert

Assistant professor of migration law

‘Anyone requesting asylum in the Netherlands can try to appeal the rejection to a higher court. If a judge decides you’re not allowed to stay, you have to leave the country within four weeks. But the process can actually take years: new proceedings brought on by new facts or issues with the right papers means it sometimes takes a really long time before people are actually deported.

The Children’s Rights Convention requires the state secretary to consider the interests of the child in their decision. But simply stating that the consideration has been made is already sufficient. But being deported can have enormous consequences for children who were already settled down here.

Applying for children’s amnesty usually doesn’t work: this can only be used if the child’s parents have cooperated during the proceedings. So it’s not about the child, but about the parents’ behaviour. And the criteria are extremely strict. Most of the requests are denied. It begs the question of whether this arrangement even works.

This is how you get situation like we had with Mauro and Lilly and Howick. Nemr is in the same boat. I wonder if we shouldn’t make the children’s pardon scheme less strict. There are so many children who are in the same boat. But that’s a job for politicians.’

Carla van Os

Assistent professor of behavioural sciences

‘Nemr has moved house eight times in nine years. That’s extremely stressful. And now he’s threatened with being deported back to a country that he feels is unsafe, a country his parents are scared of. Children in situations like this tend to develop social and emotional problems after a few years.

Research has shown us that it’s important for vulnerable people such as asylum seekers to have a stable, normal life. But that’s really difficult for parents who are forced to raise their children in asylum seekers’ centres. Parents can sort of lose their role or authority in that environment.  It’s then really hard for them to help their children reintegrate back into their own country, especially when they’re scared themselves.

Children and parents who return voluntarily after they were given a residence permit here often do better in their country of origin. They had a stronger position in their host country and were able to create a stable existence.’

Susan Aasman

Associate professor of media studies

‘Tim Hofman, the vlogger known for #Boos, decided to devote an entire documentary rather than just a short vlog to this subject. It shows that this is a very serious subject. By calling it a documentary he positions himself among a long line of documentary filmmakers who engage with a subject and try to expose abuse.

People have been making social documentaries since the 1920s. The genre’s goal is to inform people, to expose abuses and to make politicians aware of them to try and create change. Tim Hofman is using a very old trick: focusing on a child, giving the issue a human face. It gives the viewers a handhold and enables us to talk about it.

There are two things we should be asking here. One: is this ethical? People who participate in a documentary don’t usually expect to end up the focal point of a discussion. Should the filmmaker be allowed to focus on a child when they don’t know what the consequences are going to be?’

‘And two: is the camera really that powerful? It may seem like it’s having no effect, but this documentary ensures that the issue of the children’s pardon is an important one on the political agenda.’


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