The cabinet is considering using cruise ships anchored off the Dutch coast as short-term accommodation for refugees, junior justice minister Eric van der Burg told reporters on Wednesday after talks on the asylum seekers crisis.
Three large cruise ships have already been commissioned and one will be anchored in Velsen, near IJmuiden, the minister said. Locations for the other two are still being sought. Vlissingen had earlier agreed to take one ship but has since withdrawn.
In the meantime, officials are now looking into the legality of anchoring the ships offshore, the minister told reporters. Ways of ensuring the refugees can leave the ship also have to be sorted out, otherwise they would technically be in captivity and that would be illegal.
Refugee aid group VluchtelingenWerk described the idea of placing asylum seekers offshore as ‘absurd’.
‘You don’t need to carry out any research to realise that this is not something you can do to people who have fled war and violence,’ a spokesman said. ‘Taking in refugees is something you do as a society, not at sea.’
Hundreds of new asylum seekers have been sleeping rough outside the Ter Apel reception centre because of the shortage of beds and the long queues for assessment. This situation, Van der Burg said, is the ‘hard reality’ and will take days if not weeks to solve.
Van der Burg also said he is looking into alternative ways of housing the thousands of refugees from Ukraine who have come to the Netherlands.
Some local authorities have agreed to take in Ukrainian refugees but not others, and the minister said he hoped to place as many Ukrainians in those locations, clearing space at other centres for people with other nationalities.
Some 15,000 of the 40,000 refugees currently living in government refugee accommodation have a residency permit and should have already moved into regular housing.
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