Geneva — They expressed serious concerns over the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service's intention to revoke the refugee status of Jude Kasangaki and Anita Mavita and deport them to Uganda, along with their youngest child, a one-year-old boy, while leaving their other seven children scattered across five foster homes in the Netherlands.
"Deportation of the parents and the youngest child would irrevocably separate the seven children from their parents, disregarding their best interests," the experts said. "The children remaining in the Netherlands might never again see their parents, or their baby brother. Such a move would violate the right to family life and unity as guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child," they added.
The children, all under the age of 12, were forcibly removed from their parents in 2018, under contentious circumstances that have been subject to ongoing scrutiny by UN human rights experts and challenged in the courts by the parents.
"The removal of the children from their parents appears to have been influenced by racial and cultural biases that resulted in discriminatory treatment," the experts said.
Notably, the Netherlands has not facilitated any family or sibling visitation, or set forth a family reunification plan, since the forcible and traumatic removal of the children two years ago. The children have not seen their parents since then and have not even been allowed to speak to them on the phone since April 2019. In foster homes, the children are not allowed to speak their mother tongue, Luganda, and are cared for by people unfamiliar with Ugandan culture.
The experts called upon the Netherlands to respect its own court ruling that the children should see their parents and that the parents be assisted with child-care training and guidance as they had requested so the family could be reunited.
"We urge the Netherlands to reconsider the deportation, set forth a family reunification plan, and do an independent assessment of this case to determine what solution is in the children's best interests."
The experts - engaged with the Netherlands on this case for almost two years - reminded the country of its international human rights obligations to maintain family unity, and to do so on a non-discriminatory basis.
"We are concerned that separating the family by deporting the parents could amount to arbitrary or unlawful interference with family life; and sever family ties," they said. "The right to family life should be fully respected, protected and fulfilled in relation to every child without discrimination."
The experts have also received information claiming that there are factors that would create risk to the life and personal integrity of Mr. Kasangaki if deported. The Netherlands has the obligation under both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the UN Convention against Torture to comply with the principle of non-refoulement. This means no refugee should be returned to a country where their life or freedom would be in danger on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The experts have also requested the State to provide information on this claim.
They also urged the Netherlands not to discriminate against Mavita, who was granted refugee status independently of her husband. She has the right to an individual assessment of her case, they said.