Ter Apel council takes refugee agency to court over numbers

The entrance to the reception centre. Photo: Justice ministry information service

The local council of Westerwolde, which includes the crisis-hit Ter Apel refugee centre, is heading for court on Wednesday to demand the COA refugee agency stops breaking official limits on the number of people living at the facility.

The site can cope with 2,000 residents but that limit has been broken repeatedly, leading government inspectors to slam conditions at Ter Apel for being unsafe and unhygienic. 

The council wants the COA to face a fine of €25,000 a day if it does not bring numbers down to within the official maximum. 

Last week nine Groningen mayors, as well as the king’s commissioner for the province, René Paas, wrote to caretaker justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz and junior minister for asylum, Eric van der Burg, accusing the cabinet of “wilfully” allowing the crisis to develop.

Justice ministry inspectors have also said the building was not compliant with fire safety standards, meaning it could not be evacuated safely, while the number of violent incidents was increasing.

“We find it incomprehensible and unacceptable that this can happen in this country,” the leaders wrote in a letter cited by Nieuwsuur.

Next week the senate will debate legislation which is supposed to ensure refugees are spread more fairly around the country, although it is unclear if there will be a majority in favour.

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