The case of an Angolan teenager named Mauro Manuel has been receiving alot of media attention this week becuase the young boy has lost his fight to stay in the Netherland despite a plea by him to the Dutch parliament and countless support from the general public for his case.
Mauro has been living in the Dutch province of Limburg with a foster family since he arrived in the Netherlands as an unaccompanied asylum seeker at the age of ten in 2003. During this time, Mauro had become very settled in the Netherlands. He currently lives with foster parents who have recently had a son who Mauro counts as his little brother. Mauro even speaks fluent Dutch and with the added touch of the unmistakeable Limburg drawl. He is also studying a vocational course at college. It would seem by any reasonable standard that Mauro is extremely integrated in the local community and in Dutch society.
The decision against Mauro was made by Dutch MPs who voted down two motions on Tuesday last which would have allowed him to stay in the country permanently. They are expected to vote next week on a compromise solution which would allow him to stay to hear whether or not an application for a temporary four-year visa as a student would be successful.
On the day when the decision was been made by parliament, Mauro had the support of 700 supporters and celebrities to submit a petition which was signed by more that 55,000 people. All of these people are in agreement that Mauro, an integrated member of the community should be given the right to remain in the place that he regards his home place. Mauro also enjoys support from groups such as the United Nations children’s agency, Unicef, who have stated that if Mauro was to be deported now, at a time when he is fully established and integrated in Dutch society, it would be in contravention of the UN Convention on Children’s Rights and would have serious repercussions for his development.
The case of Mauro raises questions regarding the proper weight a State should give to the integration of an applicant within the community in respect of their application to remain in that State. If Mauro is deemed not sufficiently integrated into the life and Society of Netherlands to permit him to stay, then what is actually required for someone to be deemed to be permitted to remain in the community?
The Dutch Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers ruled that Mauro had no right to stay in the Netherlands due to the fact that there were many others in Mauro’s situation and that therefore an exception could not be made. In Ireland, the policies applied by the State to justify refusal of residence/visa applications, or to ground deportations include the obligation to protect the integrity of our immigration system, the State welfare system, control of borders, etc. Such policies are of course important. But where does the correct balance lie in circumstances such as Mauro’s case where an individual is fully established and integrated in the State?
National policies which attempt to control and manage immigration are legitimate and necessary, but must be applied relative to the individual facts of the each case. Blanket policies applied systematically can lead to unreasonable, unfair and perhaps unlawful decisions.