Monday 18 October 2021

Ter Apel councillors call for action as refugee centre overflows

The entrance to the Ter Apel centre. Photo: Vincent Jannink ANP

Too many asylum seekers are staying in emergency accommodation next to the Ter Apel registration centre and urgent action is needed, local councillors have told broadcaster RTV Noord.

The emergency housing – large white tents – has space for 125 people but more people than that stay there on a regular basis, local officials say.

The Ter Apel registration centre is the first port of call for all asylum seekers when they arrive in the Netherlands and the tents are where they wait while they are registered and identified.

However, the centre closes at 6pm and those who are left have to wait in the tents until the following day. This has left dozens of people sleeping on camp beds and chairs, and the police have been forced to intervene on two occasions, RTV Noord said. Eight people have been arrested for causing the disturbances in the past week.

A spokesman for the council said they had asked refugee settlement agency COA to solve the situation and to make sure than the numbers of asylum seekers are kept within agreements.

Local councillors have now written to the government, saying they cannot handle the situation at a local level any longer.

The centre is currently processing 1,200 asylum seekers a week – many of them the family members of people who have already been granted refugee status. A year ago, around 500 people a week were reporting to the Ter Apel centre.

Family

Refugee aid organisation Vluchtelingenwerk told RTV Noord that the immigration service IND knows how many visas have been given to family members and should have been better prepared to deal with the increase in numbers.

Families of people who have been granted refugee status should be processed separately at a different location, spokeswoman Evita Bloemheuvel said.

There is also a rise in the number of refugees coming to the Netherlands, probably because travel is now easier because coronavirus restrictions are being eased, she said.

Thousands of refugees who have been granted residency permits are currently still living in refugee centres because of the shortage of housing nationwide. This too is having an impact on numbers and has led to several emergency centres being established.

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