Ukraine crisis adds to pressure on overburdened refugee shelters


The arrival of large numbers of people fleeing the war in Ukraine is putting overloaded refugee shelters under even more strain, the agency responsible for housing them has warned.

The central asylum seekers’  accommodation service COA says it is struggling to make room for people arriving from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Another 1,500 beds need to be found before April 1, when two temporary facilities in Almelo and Wassenaar housing 1,180 people are due to close.

‘We are seeing that it’s very hard to find places for the regular group because almost everything is being reserved for Ukrainians,’ COA director Milo Schoenmaker told NOS. ‘We have a real problem; there’s already an overflow in Ter Apel.’

Junior asylum minister Eric van der Burg acknowledged that there was an ‘urgent need’ to create more places to avoid people sleeping on the streets. ‘In Ter Apel they’re already sleeping in chairs and on couches,’ he said.

Dutch local authorities have committed to making space for 50,000 Ukrainian refugees by the end of the month, distributed across the 25 safety council areas. Chairman Hubert Bruls said the regions would all look for places to house other asylum seekers as well.

‘That way we will be able to judge if a location that is now being offered to Ukrainians can be used for regular asylum seekers, or the other way around,’ he said.

Schoenmaker said newly arrived Ukrainians should be accommodated separately from other refugees for the time being, but stressed the need for a ‘co-ordinated’ strategy.

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