Refugee agency must pay €1 million in fines for overcrowding

The Ter Apel centre last month. Photo:

The sum of money refugee settlement agency COA must pay to the local authority because of overcrowding at the Ter Apel reception centre topped €1 million this week, figures from the agency show. 

On Wednesday night again more than the permitted 2,000 people slept at the location, further boosting the court-ordered fine. The council has not yet said what it will do with the money, but hopes to have finalised a plan before the summer. 

Judges ruled earlier this year that COA would be liable for a €15,000 fine for every night the centre had more than 2,000 residents – the legal limit.

“We are doing all we can to meet our agreement with Westerwolde local authority and avoid fines,” the agency said earlier this year. “But the high occupancy rate and stream of newcomers means this is not always possible.”

In January, the senate voted in favour of new legislation which will spread the refugee more equitably around the country. Some councils have not provided any accommodation for asylum seekers, whether temporary or a permanent home for those who have been given residency permits.

The problem in Ter Apel has been made worse because three large refugee centres in Nijmegen, Biddinghuizen and Breda have recently closed and contracts with some holiday parks and hotels have ended as the summer season approaches. 

COA regular and emergency shelters are currently providing beds for almost 70,000 people, but 19,000 of them have been given residency permits and should have moved into normal housing.

However, the shortage of housing in general in the Netherlands means there is nowhere for them to go, further adding to the pressure on refugee accommodation.  

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