Refugee housing crisis deepens, COA won’t meet January deadline

A refugee centre in Amsterdam. Photo: Lauren Comiteau
A refugee centre in Amsterdam. Photo: Lauren Comiteau

Local councils have so little confidence that the refugee settlement agency COA will be able to provide emergency accommodation if needed from January next year that they are delaying the deadline to April 1, RTL Nieuws reported at the weekend.

The COA is supposed to take over full responsibility for housing all refugees on January 1, but estimates it will be still short of some 10,000 places by then, making emergency accommodation provision essential.

‘Something has to happen, because local councils have been dealing with the refugee problem for a long time,’ a spokesman for safety board chief Hubert Bruls told the broadcaster. ‘January 1 would appear to be no longer realistic for the handover, and the law, which was promised on October 1, has not materialised either.’

Junior justice minister Eric van der Burg is working on legislation which would spread responsibility for refugees across the country. More than half the Netherlands’ local authorities have not provided any emergency accommodation for refugees for the past 10 years.

Van der Burg said last week that the draft law will be published in the next few days.

Court case

Meanwhile, refugee agency Vluchtelingenwerk said on Monday that the situation facing 19,000 refugees in Dutch centres has further worsened, and 19,000 people are living in crisis or emergency accommodation.

‘Women do not dare to go to the toilet at night, people with serious illnesses are not getting access to healthcare and children are being dragged from one sports hall to another,’ the aid group said.

Earlier this month, Vluchtelingwerk won a court case in which the government was ordered to solve the problem facing refugees in emergency housing within two weeks, but the state is appealing against the verdict.

The first hearing in the appeal case is on Monday.

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