Refugee crisis deepens at Ter Apel, 700 sleep outside

Photo: Ministry of justice
Photo: Ministry of justice

A record number of people have been forced to sleep outside the refugee centre at Ter Apel on Tuesday as staff struggle to cope with demand.

Some 700 people had to make do with makeshift shelters around the centre, a spokeswoman for the refugee settlement agency COA told press agency ANP.

Backlogs at the immigration service IND and a lack of accommodation in other parts of the country for people who have been granted asylum are at the bottom of an ever deepening refugee crisis with no easy solution on the horizon.

The conditions at the centre, the first port of call for all refugees, have been causing tension for months. Instances of theft and violence have prompted Westerwold local council to declare the area around the centre a safety risk, giving police powers to stop and search.

A number of intake staff reportedly interrupted work on Tuesday in protest. ‘We spoke about how we go from here. You could call that a work stoppage,’ COA spokeswoman Jacqueline Engbers told regional paper Dagblad van het Noorden.

Staff are particularly upset about having to refuse people at the gate, Engbers said. ‘We are here to offer accommodation, not leave them to sort themselves out. At some point you start to think: is that what I joined COA for?’

The government is currently bypassing local council authorities in an effort to force them to take in refugees but the move has proved controversial, especially among local councillors from the right-wing governing party VVD.

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