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Netherlands releases immigrant mom, son

Published October 15, 2006

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - An 8-year-old boy and his Chinese illegal immigrant mother, whose imprisonment sparked calls for a review of tough immigration policies, have been released, their lawyer said Saturday.

Hui Chen was freed along with his mother, Xiu Chen, after she revealed new information to immigration authorities that could affect their decision to deport her, said their lawyer, Michel Collet.

They had been imprisoned since last month.

Collet said he had not yet spoken to immigration officials to find out why they were freed or whether they would be allowed to remain in the Netherlands.

"I really need to speak to them to find out which information was decisive," Collet said. He also said the mother and child had been taken to a shelter, not an immigrant detention center.

The Immigration Service could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Hui Chen's mother is one of 38,000 illegal immigrants scheduled for deportation from the Netherlands after having their asylum applications rejected more than five years ago.

They initially were placed in a detention center but moved in September to a prison cell because Xiu Chen refused to cooperate with moves to send her back to China and would not be separated from her son.

The mother says she was shipped to the Netherlands in 1998 by people traffickers when she was 16 and already pregnant with Hui.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk had argued that because Hui's mother refused to be separated from her stateless son, they had to be locked in the same cell until they could be sent to China.

"The government's policy is aimed at the departure from the Netherlands of all unlawfully present foreigners," she told Parliament after Hui's case came into the spotlight ahead of the Nov. 22 general election.

Verdonk has made her reputation on unflinching enforcement of immigration laws. This year she expelled a Kosovo girl months before her high school graduation, and tried to revoke the citizenship of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee, elected lawmaker and outspoken critic of Islamic extremism.

Refugee advocates in the Netherlands, which has seen a tough clampdown on immigration in recent years, complained bitterly that the Chens were being treated inhumanely.

Last week, the family's lawyer launched a legal appeal to end their detention, and a court had been expected to issue a ruling within days.

Hui Chen was one of eight children being held in Dutch prisons pending deportation.

[Last modified October 15, 2006, 01:59:12]

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