Councils back small scale refugee centre plan, as shortage of beds continues

A pro-refugee demonstration in Amsterdam. Photo:

Dutch councils are prepared to take over the responsibility for dealing with asylum seekers if they can do it on a small scale and with proper funding, the local authorities association VNG has said.

On Tuesday, two government advisory groups said the entire refugee system needed to be overhauled because it is in ‘‘almost continuous crisis’ and the quality of care ‘drops below humane levels’.

The care of refugees should become part of local authorities’ legal duties and new arrivals who have strong cases should be allocated to councils according to the size of their populations, the two government agencies say.

The IND would be responsible for making a speedy first assessment of asylum applications and refugees from safe third countries and with weak cases would continue to be the responsibility of refugee settlement agency COA.

Local council officials told Nieuwsuur that smaller locations are not only more likely to be accepted by locals, but are better in terms of the integration of refugees.

Junior justice minister Eric van der Burg, who is in charge of refugee affairs, told Nieuwsuur that he opposes forcing councils to take in asylum seekers. Nevertheless, the proposals include many ideas which he agrees with, he said.


One reason for the overcrowding in refugee centres is the lack of suitable accommodation for people who have been given residency permits. The refugee agency is currently providing beds for some 40,000 people, but nearly 14,000 of them should have moved into regular housing.

The shortage of beds has led the Red Cross to put up a further 50 tents at the Ter Apel reception centre in Groningen. In total, 60 tents have now been erected, to provide temporary shelter for hundreds of people awaiting an initial assessment.

‘Our workers have noticed that children are sleeping in the tents, even though it gets cold at night,’ Red Cross director Marieke van Schaik told news agency ANP. ‘This is unacceptable.’

Moving around

The Volkskrant on Wednesday carried an interview with one Syrian family who arrived in the Netherlands a month ago. Since then they been moved from Ter Apel in Groningen to Vledder in Drenthe, back to Ter Apel, then to Terneuzen in Zeeland and now to Loon op Zand, which is just north of Tilburg.

They have still not undergone an initial assessment by the IND, which has to be carried out in Ter Apel.

Meanwhile, the new Rotterdam city administration has agreed to offer refugees who have been given residency permits training and a job guarantee. The previous council successfully found placements for 23 people but that will be expanded considerably this year, the new coalition said.

‘If you have a job you learn the language and social norms more quickly,’ employment chief Vincent Karremans said. ‘And that way you prevent newcomers becoming socially isolated.’

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