Plans for a dedicated shuttle bus from the Ter Apel asylum seekers centre in Drenthe have been shot down in the Dutch parliament unless guarantees are made that the service will not be free.
Translation by Traci White
UPDATE: 6:20 p.m., Wednesday, 24 April
RTV Drenthe reports that Drenthe Tours will be operating a shuttle service from Ter Apel for an initial pilot period of three months.
Original story follows below:
The plan, which was introduced in April, was for Qbuzz to provide a shuttle bus for residents between the facility and the city and Emmen. The shuttle was in response to a series of alleged incidents on bus 73, which travels between Emmen and Stadskanaal with a stop near the asylum seekers centre in Ter Apel.
The Dutch national press agency ANP reports that the ministry of justice and safety is in favour of a pilot programme for a separate shuttle line to and from the Ter Apel facility, but members of the Dutch parliament opposed making the service free: on Tuesday, a motion to guarantee that the shuttle would not be free received majority support in the parliament.
The plan had already encountered local political opposition: Wim Eilert, leader of the Labour Party faction in the municipality of Westerwolde, characterised the plans as “rewarding” bad behaviour and implied that it would somehow be a problem if the shuttle encouraged more asylum seekers to use public transport.
The issues on the buses centre around a small group out of the 2,000 residents of the Ter Apel facility. In November, national newspaper NRC reported that a handful of asylum seekers from countries which have been deemed safe, such as Turkey and Albania, were regularly causing problems on the bus line.
Several bus drivers claimed that a few of the so-called “safe country” asylum seekers threatened them, damaged the buses and caused delays for other passengers. The drivers said they would impose a boycott late last year if no action was taken. One bus driver on line 73 says that the problem cases have intimated female passengers, struck the windows and spat at the drivers, but he says that such conduct remains an exception: the biggest issue in his eyes is that certain passengers attempt to board the bus without paying or buy tickets that will not cover the full cost of their trip.
“A couple of bad apples”
Issues with a handful of passengers date back years, and Qbuzz and the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe paid for security guards to be present on the buses. “A couple of bad apples are spoiling it for the rest”, another driver told the paper. “We don’t have any problems whatsoever from the true asylum seekers.”
One regular passenger on the bus told NRC that the biggest issue was how long the stop at the asylum seekers center takes due to newly arrived families who do not yet understand how the bus system works and often do not have enough money to buy a ticket.