Inspectors, Ter Apel council were at loggerheads over refugee crisis

The Red Cross helping refugees at Ter Apel in September. Photo: ANP / Hollandse Hoogte / Huisman Media
The Red Cross helping refugees at Ter Apel in September. Photo: ANP / Hollandse Hoogte / Huisman Media

Government inspectors wanted to place tents at the Ter Apel refugee reception centre last summer to cope with the accommodation crisis but the local council and safety board refused, saying the move could hamper efforts to find a more permanent solution, broadcaster NOS reported on Monday.

The council and regional safety board said that placing tents with proper flooring could lead to other councils dragging their feet about providing emergency accommodation, NOS said. The broadcaster bases its claims on documents obtained under freedom of information legislation.

Hundreds of refugees slept outside the centre in August and September because of the shortage of beds and long delays in the registration process.

On August 24, a three-month old baby died, prompting inspectors to warn that ‘there is a serious risk of an outbreak of infectious diseases given the total lack of hygiene’.

The inspectors continued to warn about the situation, and despite some piecemeal solutions, it was not until September 10 that some asylum seekers were moved to a new emergency centre in Zoutcamp.

At one point during the crisis, international aid group Médicins sans Frontières stepped in, describing conditions in front of the refugee centre as ‘inhumane’.

MSF, which usually provides medical support in developing countries, gave assistance to hundreds of refugees living under makeshift awnings on the grass outside the entrance.


In October it emerged that just one local council had come forward to say it will make extra beds available for child refugees, dozens of whom are currently sleeping on office floors at the Ter Apel reception centre at the time.

Research published by RTL Nieuws in September showed that more than half of Dutch local councils have not provided any housing for refugees in the past 10 years.

Richer council areas and Bible belt towns and villages are far less likely to have housed a refugee centre, the figures, from refugee settlement agency COA, show.

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