Angolan youth at centre of political row finally granted Dutch residency
Child refugee had faced deportation
An Angolan youth who came to the Netherlands at the age of nine, and whose battle to avoid deportation caused a political row which highlighted the plight of thousands of other child refugees, has finally been given a Dutch permanent residence permit yesterday.
Mauro Manuel arrived alone in 2003 after the Angolan civil war and was fostered to Dutch parents. He became a model student in the southern province of Limburg, where he learned to speak Dutch, and played on the local youth soccer team.
What neither he nor his foster parents had anticipated, however, was the letter from the immigration service when he turned 18, telling him that having reached the age of majority, he should return immediately to his country of origin – or face deportation.
Mr Manuel’s parents, teachers and friends launched a campaign to change the government’s mind, but immigration minister Gerd Leers refused to be give way to pressure.
In November 2011, Mr Leers won a vote in parliament refusing to allow the young Angolan to stay. The vote caused public outrage, however, and the new Liberal-Labour government elected last October said the case had highlighted inflexible bureaucracy that needed to be changed.
They introduced an amnesty for children aged 18 and under who had lived in the Netherlands for more than five years without official refugee status; some 2,500 applications have so far been received.
Last night, the teenager was celebrating with his foster parents after receiving his residence permit. “I want to work for a while first and earn some money and then go to college,” he said. “It’s been difficult, but we’re very grateful. ”