The Ter Apel asylum seekers reception center is in trouble again, reported RTV Drenthe. On Tuesday 10 May, it was shared that dozens of asylum seekers did not have a place to stay and that they had been spending their nights for a while on the lawn in front of the gates of the center. Even when they were finally accommodated inside, it was in the waiting area.
Both the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and the House of Representatives have expressed worry about the situation quickly becoming untenable. On Wednesday, State Secretary Van der Burg called on all Dutch municipalities to step up and help with the housing of the displaced asylum seekers.
The situation remained tense through Wednesday evening, with the Red Cross setting up tents at Ter Apel. According to the humanitarian organizations, there were around 200 people with no place to go. In the end, the tents were not necessary, since the Groningen Safety Region managed to find around 100 shelter spots in an emergency location in Heerenveen, while the other 100 asylum seekers slept in the lobby at Ter Apel.
Red Cross director Marieke van Schaik told the press that this is “an absolute low point” for Ter Apel. Red Cross representatives also declared that the current situation is “below any humanitarian level and downright unacceptable”.
As of Thursday May 12, no permanent solution to the overcrowding problem had been found since municipalities cannot be legally forced to host asylum seekers. State Secretary Van der Burg expects the shortage of places to continue for almost a week.
Experts have been calling for the government to provide more permanent reception structures for asylum seekers across the country, but so far there is no concrete plan for that.
Past crises in Ter Apel
This is only the latest chapter in Ter Apel’s history of overcrowding emergencies in the past couple of months alone.
All people applying for asylum in the Netherlands need to report to the center in Ter Apel, so that they can be assigned a more permanent spot elsewhere in the country. But here is where the lack of permanent reception spots plays a big role: the shortage means that many asylum seekers, instead of staying just one night at the shelter in Ter Apel – as intended –, end up being stuck there longer. That is what is one of the main causes of overcrowding.
On March 21st, the COA observed that, while municipalities were rushing to find shelters for the first groups of Ukrainian refugees, no spots were being offered to asylum seekers from other countries.
On April 10th, Groningen Mayor and Head of the emergency region Koen Schuiling visited the reception center and spoke out against what he called “our own Lampedusa”, where “children play among the waste”. On that occasion, he also called out municipalities that were quick to find places for Ukrainians but hesitated when asked to find other spots for asylum seekers from other countries.
Mayor Schuiling’s words about municipalities not doing their part are confirmed by an analysis done by the NOS, which highlighted that of the fifty largest municipalities in the Netherlands, three – Roosendaal, Delft and Westland – have not taken in any asylum seekers in the past twelve years.
On April 15th, the Children’s Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer told NRC that children in Ter Apel suffer from trauma and do not receive mental help. She expressed worry, especially for the 113 unaccompanied minors that were present at the center.
The crisis was temporarily solved on April 19th, when the municipalities of Amsterdam, Oss, Nijmegen and Alkmaarstepped up and made space for 300 asylum seekers.