Thursday 18 August 2022

Regional safety boards urged to identify housing for Ukrainian refugees

A sign in support of Ukraine in an Amsterdam window. Photo: DutchNews.nl

All 25 regional safety boards in the Netherlands have been told by the cabinet to come up with thousands of places for Ukrainian refugees as a matter of urgency.

Each safety board area must identify at least 1,000 places within two weeks with a further 1,000 coming on board later, news website Nu.nl said on Friday.

The UN’s refugee organisation UNHCR estimates that more than one million people have so far fled Ukraine and they expect the total to be between three million and seven million in the coming period.

People arriving at Schiphol airport without friends or family to stay with are currently being referred to the 200 places in a hotel reserved by Amsterdam city council. A further 800 beds are available at the Harskamp barracks in Gelderland, broadcaster NOS said.

Groningen has reserved space for 230 people at the Nescio Hotel in Haren, south of the city, which had been used by the refugee settlement agency COA as accommodation for refugees with coronavirus.

The Dutch local authorities association VNG is compiling a register of official locations which have been identified so far.

Private households

At the same time, a number of private initiatives to offer accommodation to Ukrainians are also springing up. Onderdak Ukraine, RoomforUkraine and Takecarebnb are just some of the websites offering to match refugees and hosts in the Netherlands.

Ukrainians are allowed to travel to the Netherlands without a visa and do not fall under the current regime for refugees. Nevertheless, 252 people have already reported to the Ter Apel registration centre in Groningen province so far, the COA said.

EU ministers have agreed to extend the current 90 days of visa-free travel within the block to one year. During their time in the Netherlands or other EU countries, Ukrainian nationals will be able to work and their children can go to school.

Other refugees

Commentators have pointed out that previous urgent appeals made by the COA asking local councils to identify emergency accommodation for Afghan refugees were largely a failure.

The organisation is still grappling with a massive shortage of suitable housing for people evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban took back control.

Local authorities too have failed to find enough permanent housing for refugees with residency permits, meaning people are living in official refugee centres for far longer than they should.

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