The Groningen town of Stadskanaal has agreed to provide emergency accommodation in tents for asylum seekers to relieve pressure on the Ter Apel reception centre.
The marquees, which will be heated, will provide beds for some 200 people and can probably be used from Thursday, despite the snow and freezing conditions.
The local council said it was stepping in to help out because of the “very worrying” situation in a the Ter Apel reception centre where all new refugees are processed.
“Tents are far from ideal at this time of year,” council official Ingrid Sterenborg said. “But the situation in Ter Apel is desperate. And it is better to sleep in a heated tent than on the ground.”
Asylum seekers will be taken by bus to the tents, where they will be given an evening meal and can spend the night. The next day they will be returned to Ter Apel to wait to be seen by the immigration service IND, a process that can take months.
Last weekend, the Red Cross was drafted in to provide emergency provisions for dozens of refugees who had been sleeping on the floor of waiting rooms in the centre.
The refugee settlement agency COA said last month it would contact 45 municipalities that are failing to meet their obligations to provide shelter under a plan agreed between local mayors and provinces earlier in the month.
That plan was drawn up to try to relieve pressure at Ter Apel where 2,500 people are currently staying in a facility that has a maximum capacity of 2,000.
The justice ministry has warned that the number of refugees with a permit to stay who are living in asylum seeker accommodation – which is intended for those whose claims are still being processed – could reach 21,000 by 2025 unless councils find alternatives.
In October, MPs voted in favour of legislation that will force all 342 Dutch local authorities to accept their fair share of refugees. However, the ruling VVD and far right parties all voted against the legislation, as did the BBB, whose support is crucial to get the measure passed in the senate.
Research published by RTL Nieuws a year ago 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 research shows that nearly all of the 25 poorest local authorities in the country have provided temporary housing for refugees at some point since 2012, while just three of the richest 25 have done so.
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