Councils call a halt to refugee bed plans pending new government


The new coalition’s decision to scrap legislation to ensure all Dutch local authorities take in their fair share of refugees has already led to a drop of 2,000 to 2,500 beds, refugee settlement agency COA confirmed on Wednesday.

Now the future of the legislation is in doubt, councils are cancelling or delaying decisions on providing housing for new arrivals, the COA said, adding that this means hundreds of people may have nowhere to sleep in the short term.

“This could lead to an inhuman situation and irresponsible pressure on our staff,” the agency said.

The legislation, which came into effect in February, gives national government the power to force councils to act if they fail to meet their responsibilities. Over half the country’s 342 local authority areas have not provided any form of refugee housing in the past 10 years.

Erik van der Burg, the junior minister who drove through the legislation, told reporters on Friday that the expected decline is a direct response to the plan by the right-wing government in waiting to withdraw the law.

Nevertheless, he said, the legislation remains in place, despite the publication of the new coalition’s plans. “Everyone has to continue putting the law into practice, until it is withdrawn,” he said. “With or without the law, we have to make sure that people don’t end up sleeping on the grass.”

Currently, almost 20,000 refugees with a residency permit are still living in centres meant for new asylum seekers because of the lack of available housing. That is a rise of over 3,000 on the start of the year.

The new right-wing coalition has pledged to bring in the “toughest ever” package of measures to reduce the number of refugees coming to the Netherlands.

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