Saturday 03 December 2022

Minister appeals again for councils to house young refugees

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Junior justice minister Eric van der Burg has made yet another urgent appeal to local councils to come up with beds for refugees – this time for 1,700 places for youngsters who have travelled to the Netherlands without their parents.

There is a ‘real’ likelihood that young asylum seekers will end up sleeping outdoors or drift from place to place unless more housing is found, the minister said. ‘I would ask you all, as a matter of real urgency, to prevent us reaching an absolute low point,’ Van der Burg said in his letter to all 345 local council chiefs.

Between 100 and 150 youngsters under the age of 18 are arriving in the Netherlands every week, the minister said. Some 25 to 30 family homes per province where foster agency Nidos could set up small scale care operations would, he said, make a major contribution to ending the crisis.

The minister’s appeal came several hours after judges in The Hague ruled that the Dutch state and refugee settlement agency COA had to ensure all its accommodation met international standards.

The court also gave the government two weeks to improve conditions for unaccompanied minors at the Ter Apel reception centre. Currently there are around 300 children living alone at the facility, even though it only has space for 55. The rules say they should be moved to specialist accommodation within five days.

Van der Burg has made repeated calls to local authorities to provide housing, but to little effect. Despite the crisis, the number of beds for asylum seekers has actually fallen by around 1,250, Van der Burg said last weekend.

The minister is working on legislation which will ensure all local authorities provide housing for refugees, and will give ministers the powers to force them to do so.

A large majority of Dutch local authorities have not provided any long-term accommodation for refugees over the past 10 years, it emerged last month. Nearly all of the 25 poorest local authorities in the country have provided temporary housing for refugees at some point since 2012, while just three of the richest 25 have done so.

Bible belt towns and villages are also far less likely to have housed a refugee centre, the figures, from refugee settlement agency COA, show.

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