More crisis talks as refugee centre problems get worse

People camped out in Ter Apel this weekend. Photo: Emiel Muijderman ANP
People camped out in Ter Apel this weekend. Photo: Emiel Muijderman ANP

Safety board chief Herman Bruls and Eric van der Burg, the minister in charge of refugees, are meeting on Tuesday morning in yet another attempt to solve overcrowding at the Ter Apel reception centre in Groningen, after hundreds of asylum seekers again spent the night outside.

Bruls has issued Van der Burg with a new ultimatum, saying the 25 regional safety boards will stop taking responsibility for housing asylum seekers by October 1 because they are no longer in a position to solve the crisis.

‘Local authorities are given a tremendous amount of responsibility, and therefore criticism, but the real responsibility lies with national government,’ Bruls told broadcaster NOS. ‘The system has failed.’

Some 250 to 300 asylum seekers slept outside on Saturday and Sunday night, many because they afraid to ‘lose’ their place in the queue if they accept accommodation elsewhere.

All new asylum seekers have to report to Ter Apel on arrival in the Netherlands, but there is such a shortage of housing that hundreds are moved to other locations without having registered, further delaying the process.

Bruls has also called on the government to do more to remove asylum seekers from safe third countries from the chain. He wants officials to refuse them entry to the system as soon as they arrive, but this is not possible in law.

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

Emergency measures

Ministers said in May the government is planning to commandeer some 24 empty state-owned buildings to use as emergency accommodation for refugees.

In addition, three more regional reception centres will be set up, to ease pressure at Ter Apel after efforts to permanently solve the problem by appealing to local councils have failed to produce enough beds.

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