Five emergency asylum accommodation centres have been set up to house people currently living in tents and dormitories as the system struggles to cope with demand.
Junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol said the locations in Venray, Alkmaar, Rotterdam, Gorinchem and Enschede were chosen because they are available and spread the burden around the country. More sites may be named in the near future, she added.
Officials have said that 2,000 beds are needed before the end of the year, partly to replace the tents which are currently being used in a couple of locations. The national ombudsman and the Dutch human rights committee told the minister last month that tents are ‘completely unsuitable’ for winter.
Dutch refugee centres have space for 30,000 people but they are currently full to overflowing, and families are living in dormitories with no privacy.
More people have applied for asylum in the Netherlands this year because coronavirus travel restrictions were largely scrapped. In addition, some 2,000 Afghan nationals have been evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover.
The nationwide housing shortage has also increased the pressure on regular asylum centres because people who are granted refugee status are unable to leave. Some 12,000 people are currently living in asylum centres who should now be living in regular accommodation.
In recent months, local authorities have managed to find thousands of extra beds and allocated more than 10,000 homes to people with official refugee status, the minister said. This, she said, is a ‘tremendous performance’, but still may not be enough.
In Gorinchem, the refugees will live in redundant government offices and in Enschede on a former airbase. In Alkmaar, former tax department offices will be used.
In Venray, Broekers-Knol has decided several hundred refugees should be put up in a events hall in the village of Oostrum for a period of four months.
Mayor Cor Vervoort told broadcaster NOS that the hall is next to a coronavirus vaccination centre and a school, and is close to the railway track. ‘Can this place house 500 people with all the necessary facilities?’ he said.
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