No end in sight to refugee bed crisis, thousands could be homeless: NRC

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

The Netherlands faces ‘social disruption’ if there is no speedy solution to the shortage of housing for refugees, the NRC reported on Friday, quoting internal documents from settlement agency COA, the IND immigration service and justice ministry.

The documents make it clear there is ‘no end in sight’ and that the agencies fear a couple of thousand refugees could end up on the streets because of the shortage of accommodation.

That means, the documents suggest, ‘unregistered refugees’ will drift around the country and cause problems, particularly in the bigger cities, the paper said. By April the shortfall of beds could reach 8,000.

Last summer, hundreds of asylum seekers were forced to sleep outside the Ter Apel reception centre because of the shortage of beds. But while extra places have been realized since then, contracts for 18 other locations expire in February and March, and that means a further 5,000 beds will go.

Earlier this week, Nieuwsuur reported that the shortfall is expected to reach 38,000 this year, because of the closure of asylum centres and the arrival of new refugees.

‘All ways of steering the crisis seem to have been exhausted,’ the paper said.

Housing crisis

COA is currently providing accommodation for some 51,000 refugees at 167 different locations. However, over 16,000 of them have already been given refugee status but are unable to move into the community because of the housing crisis.

The shortage of accommodation is similar to other countries and, according to figures from European border officials at Frontex, there were 330,000 illegal border crossings into Europe last year, the highest figure since 2016, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Tunisia.

The issue will be on the agenda at the European summit in Brussels on February 9 and 10, partly at the request of the Netherlands and Austria.

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