This article contributes to the critical literature on child participation discussing the positionings of young asylum seekers (aged 12–23) residing in a Dutch asylum centre. It queries participation as an institutional measure, outlining the informants’ perspectives on the creation of a youth council within the confines of an asylum centre. Contradictions and tensions in the wider societal context, in the asylum centre, and in the functioning of the youth council are identified. They demonstrate the gulf between theory and practice in the fulfilment of children's participation rights. The authors scrutinize concepts such as ‘methodological immaturity’, ‘voice’, and ‘recognition’ and argue for the integration of the perceptions and practices of young asylum seekers through dialogue. This can assist in creating an atmosphere conducive to an ethically responsible and meaningful collaboration with young asylum seekers and adapted policy interventions to enhance participation against an on-going backdrop of insecurity, exclusion, and forced inactivity.