Eric can stay! Following mass campaign, 17-year-old will not be deported

28 March 2007

Eric can stay! Following mass campaign, 17-year-old will not be deported

The national action to support the right of 17-year-old Eric Fuanani to stay in the Netherlands, which won support from his school, his football club and campaigning group Defence for Children, has succeeded. Following a campaign which included advertisements in newspapers, letters to decision-makers, the launching of the website www.ericmoetblijven.nl ("Eric moet blijven" translates as "Eric must stay") and parliamentary questions from the SP's Jan de Wit, the news broke that Eric will not be sent back to Congo.

Eric Fuanani is a boy of seventeen years who has lived in the Netherlands since, at the age of five, he became separated from his mother during the war in Congo. Seven years later he was reunited with her in the town of Klundert in the Netherlands.Yet, while the rest of the family has been given permission to stay, Eric was told that he had not applied for the necessary documentation. But children have natural rights, including the right to live with their own families. Eric's rights were clearly threatened by this decision, which prompted a series of questions from Jan de Wit to the minister responsible.

Yesterday evening, just before a demonstration organised by Defence for Children in front of the national parliament in The Hague, the minister gave her answers. After weighing up all of the interests, she had decided to grant Eric the status of "residency permit applied for", meaning that he can stay. "Great news!" was Jan de Wit's reaction. "Fortunately the minister has decided to respect Eric's rights. Now all that remains is for just such a correct decision to be taken in the case of all minors and young adults who find themselves in a comparable situation.”

The "Eric must stay" demonstration saw an attempt on the world record for the number of people playing "keepy-uppy" – maintaining a football in the air using only their feet – at the same time. Despite the furious attempts of hundreds of children, youths and Members of Parliament – some of them from the SP – the world record remained intact, the crowd remaining around fifty short. A Dutch record was, at least, established. What prevailed, however, was the jubilation which greeted the good news about Eric.

“What we must do now is use Eric's situation as a precedent applying to all children in a comparable situation," said Jan de Wit, a call which was later supported by MPs from the two major governing parties, the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Labour (PvdA). For her part, the minister promised to keep Parliament informed of any developments in this policy area.

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