Groningen entrepreneur and activist Willem Straat has threatened to take the municipality of Westerwolde to court over the confiscation of tents that a group of business people, including Straat, handed out to the refugees who have been forced to camp outside the Ter Apel reception center.
The mayor of Westerwolde Jaap Velema said the decision had been taken because the tents presented a fire hazard and undermined ‘social safety’, the Dagblad van het Noorden reports.
Straat collected about 12,500 euros through a crowdfunding campaign and bought the pop-up tents which he distributed on Monday evening.
Hundreds of people spend nights outdoors in Ter Apel, sleeping on the roadside, often on the damp ground, with little or no access to shelter, food, showers and toilets.
In the past few months, some asylum seekers have also had to sleep on chairs and the floor at the center as overcrowding problems continue to plague the facility.
Managed by the refugee accommodation service COA, the overcrowded Ter Apel reception center is the first place where asylum seekers report when they arrive in the Netherlands. The shelter has been over capacity for years with Groningen mayor Koen Schuiling describing the situation there as “disturbing”.
The crisis was largely caused by austerity measures, personnel shortages, and the closure of some asylum seeker centers elsewhere in the country, the COA repeatedly said. The agency launched a separate court action against the state over what it calls the “inhumane” treatment of newcomers.
Refugees from Ukraine have not been affected by the crisis. An EU-wide law allows them to apply for temporary protection status, access health care and start working in the bloc. An estimated 60,000 Ukrainians have been housed by Dutch municipalities or in people’s homes.