Refugee accommodation is a national crisis, ministers agree

Children waiting to be moved to a new location on Thursday night. Photo: ANP/Hollandse Hoogte/persbureau Meter
Children waiting to be moved to a new location on Thursday night. Photo: ANP/persbureau Meter

The Netherlands is setting up a national crisis team to improve the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers after aid groups and the Red Cross described the current situation as ‘deplorable’ and ‘inhumane’.

Overcrowding at the reception centre in Ter Apel, Groningen, has led to chaotic scenes, with families forced to sleep in tents and others bused for hours across country at night.

The team, which includes prime minister Mark Rutte, justice minister Dilan Yeşilgöz and junior justice minister Eric van der Burg as well as refugee settlement agency COA and local councils, will meet for the first time on Friday evening.

‘We are going to see what needs to be done to make sure we never see such scenes in Ter Apel,’ Yeşilgöz said after the Friday cabinet meeting. ‘We want to take clear decisions quickly.’

The Netherlands has a shortfall in beds for refugees, partly because of the lack of regular housing for people who have been given residency permits. Some 14,000 of the 40,000 beds at regular refugee centres are occupied by people who should have moved on.

Boats, former army barracks and sports halls have all been turned into temporary accommodation, but so far the government has been reluctant to force local councils to act.

Yesterday, the Red Cross described the situation in Ter Apel as inhumane, after it emerged refugees who were sleeping in tents were given no food or anything to drink for over 12 hours.

‘It is clear that the COA can no longer cope,’ Van der Burg said earlier on Friday.

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