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Undocumented children in the Amsterdam region: an analysis of health, school, and living circumstances


Undocumented migrants are people who do not have a valid residence permit. There are only estimates about how many undocumented migrants are living in the European Union; the number of children among them is unclear. Studies about undocumented children are scarce and little is known about their living situation and their access to health care. Therefore, we aimed to estimate the number of undocumented children in the population of visitors of our primary care clinic for undocumented patients. Moreover, we explored whether these children’s rights with respect to health care, education, and living circumstances were met. All undocumented adult patients visiting the clinic between September 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016 received a questionnaire. In total, 267 undocumented adults responded; 30% of them had children, and 15% had one or more undocumented children living in the Netherlands. Eleven percent of those undocumented children did not attend school, 17% was not vaccinated, 83% did not have a general practitioner, and 30% did not have a permanent place of residence.

Conclusion: There are probably a considerable number of undocumented children in the Netherlands; our study estimated a percentage of 17% of the undocumented population. Not all their basic human rights are met; more awareness among people involved with child and health policies is needed.

What is Known:
There are only estimates of the number of undocumented migrants in the European Union, the number of children among them is not clear.
Studies about undocumented children are scarce and little is known about their living circumstances and access to health care.
What is New:
A substantial number of undocumented children do not go to school, are not vaccinated, and do not have a general practitioner.
The hidden group of undocumented children, whose basic human rights are not met, need special attention when they or their caregivers present at a health care facility.

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European Union


Ethical Review Board


General practitioner


Non-governmental organization


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Author information

J Beldman and S Klok-Nentjes assembled the study protocol. E van Dam-Bakker, J Beldman, and S Klok-Nentjes included data and analyzed preliminary data. J Beldman and G Tramper-Stranders performed the final data analyses. J Beldman, E van Dam-Bakker, and S Klok-Nentjes contributed to the writing of the manuscript. G Tramper-Stranders contributed to data interpretation and supervised the writing of the manuscript.

Correspondence to S. Klok-Nentjes.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The ERB provided a waiver because of the non-invasive nature of this questionnaire study.

Informed consent

The ERB reviewed the study and deemed formal ethical review and written informed consent unnecessary because of absence of risk for participants and anonymous handling of questionnaires.

Additional information

Communicated by Nicole Ritz

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Klok-Nentjes, S., Tramper-Stranders, G.A., van Dam-Bakker, E.D.M. et al. Undocumented children in the Amsterdam region: an analysis of health, school, and living circumstances. Eur J Pediatr 177, 1057–1062 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00431-018-3148-4

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  • Health care access
  • Rights
  • Undocumented children