Children held at the Ter Apel refugee centre are living in ‘unacceptable conditions’ and facing ‘mental neglect’, children’s ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer has told the NRC in an interview.
Kalverboer visited the centre this week on a fact finding mission and told the paper that children are developing further traumas during their stay. She said she was particularly concerned about the 113 unaccompanied minors living at the camp, which is a first port of call for asylum seekers when they arrive in the Netherlands.
‘There is no education, no activities, no help, nothing,’ she said. ‘They get food and that is it. Staff told me that they often don’t bother to wake the children up in the morning because there is nothing for them to do.’
‘These children,’ she said, ‘are coming from an acutely stressful situation and are being exposed to total neglect. What do you think is happening? Their problems are being made worse.’
Last week, Groningen mayor Koen Schuilingen came to a similar conclusion after visiting the camp. ‘Children are playing amid the rubbish,’ he said. ‘Festivals have better toilet facilities than this.’
Ter Apel, he said, is the Netherlands’ own Lampedusa, a reference to the Italian island where thousands of refugees lived in terrible conditions.
Refugees arriving in Ter Apel are supposed to stay there for a maximum of six days while their applications are registered, but this can run into weeks and months because of the shortage of beds in regular refugee centres.
The refugee settlement agency COA said it recognised the situation as sketched by Kalverboer but pointed to the lack of alternatives. The organisation did say it was now bringing in coaches to give the children mental support.
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