Cost of accommodating asylum seekers expected to be €3bn higher

Temporary waiting areas at Ter Apel refugee centre last year. Photo: Depositphotos
Temporary waiting areas at Ter Apel refugee centre. Photo: Depositphotos

The cost of looking after asylum seekers in 2023 is expected to be €3 billion higher than originally forecast because of an increase in refugees coupled with an accommodation shortage, NRC reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper quoted sources within the coalition ahead of the spring budget statement, which must be submitted to parliament by June 1.

The increased costs reflect both the growing number of refugees, with between 50,000 and 77,000 expected to arrive during 2023, and the struggles the government has had in accommodating them.

Last summer thousands of people had to sleep in tents outside the refugee reception centre in Ter Apel, Groningen province, after it overshot its capacity.

Artsen zonder Grenzen, the Dutch branch of the aid agency Médicins sans Frontières, described conditions as ‘inhumane’ after it answered an unprecedented call from the Dutch government for assistance.

The coalition parties are split on how to solve the crisis. Asylum minister Eric van der Burg is trying to steer a law through parliament that would allow him to identify locations to accommodate asylum seekers over the heads of municipalities.

It is not clear if the bill will secure the votes it needs in the Senate and even then it will not take effect until next year.

Van der Burg has faced resistance from MPs in his own party, the VVD, and the Christian Democrats (CDA), who want more limits on the number of asylum seekers arriving in the country.

One of the minister’s proposals, a moratorium on family members joining refugees who have been given residential status but are still waiting to be house, had to be abandoned earlier this year when the Council of State ruled it breached domestic and European law.

The other two coalition parties, D66 and the ChristenUnie (CU), want the accommodation service COA’s capacity to be expanded from 12,000 to 30,000 beds. They argue it would cut costs because refugees could be moved out of emergency accommodation, which can cost 10 times as much as regular accommodation.

‘Unnecessary harm’ to children

Meanwhile, healthcare and education experts have written to Van der Burg criticising the arrangements for asylum seeker children, who are often moved repeatedly around the country, depriving them of ‘stable, child-friendly and safe accommodation’.

They said constantly moving children around caused ‘unnecessary harm to their development, and psycho-social problems’. Children were reluctant to make school friends because they were worried about being moved on again, while the disruption increased the risk of sleeplessness, anxiety and depression.

In the letter, they called for the government to keep children in the same place while their asylum claims were being considered. ‘It is very counter-productive to be constantly arranging and transferring care and having to spend resources every time getting to know and saying goodbye to a child.’

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