Five aid groups which work with refugees have called on prime minister Mark Rutte to take direct charge of solving the asylum seeker housing crisis, news website Nu.nl said on Tuesday.
‘The Netherlands is letting vulnerable adults and children live in inhumane conditions,’ the agencies, which include Unicef and the Red Cross said. ‘Our country is allowing refugee children to become more damaged.’
Hundreds of families who have qualified for refugee status are still living in refugee centres, while others are being put up in former army barracks, tents and boats. And while the situation at the Ter Apel reception centre has become a symbol for the failure of the Dutch system, it is not the only problem, the agencies say.
Families are being constantly moved around the country and it is impossible to say how many children are living in crisis accommodation. And this means that children are not being prioritised in allocating more permanent housing despite government pledges that they would be, the agencies say.
‘Everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else and the buck stops nowhere,’ the letter said.
The agencies are calling on the cabinet to speed up new legislation which will force local authorities to allocate enough locations to house refugees. In addition, they say, children and other vulnerable people should be placed in ‘suitable surroundings’ where they can live permanently while going through the asylum procedure.
In June, youth service inspectors slammed the treatment of children in Dutch refugee centres, particularly in temporary accommodation in sports halls and other unsuitable spaces.
Children are not only being confronted with stress and sometimes violence, but do not have proper access to healthcare and education, the inspectors said, adding that the longer the situation continues the more damaging it will be for their development.
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