The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) has announced that the safety regions of Groningen, Friesland, Zeeland and Amsterdam-Amstelland have volunteered to provide emergency shelter for six hundred asylum seekers, in order to relieve the burden on the application center in Ter Apel, reported RTV Drenthe.
The emergency shelters – located in one municipality per the aforementioned safety region – will start receiving people today, June 1st, and will stay operative for two weeks. After that, it will be the turn of other safety regions to step up, as stated by the new agreement announced on May 23rd.
State Secretary for Asylum Eric van der Burg hopes this “rotation”, which is to last throughout the summer, will prevent the overcrowding problems that Ter Apel has been experiencing cyclically in the past few years.
The COA called these 600 additional spots until August ‘a very welcome contribution to the number of available reception places’.
A cycle of overcrowding
Ter Apel has been making the news for some time. Groningen security region head and Groningen mayor Koen Schuiling visited the center in April and publicly called out the appalling conditions guests of the center had to live in because of overcrowding; on multiple occasions, he also expressed disappointment at some regions and municipalities’ refusal to do their part receiving asylum seekers.
Most recently, on Monday May 30th, the reception center didn’t have any beds for around 120 people, who had to sleep on some chairs in the hallways. It was not the first time a similar situation happened.
RTV Noord reported that on May 24th, staff at Ter Apel had 144 more people in the center than they could handle (about 2000): 32 people had to sleep on chairs, while 75 were sent to a crisis emergency shelter in Amsterdam, and 86 went to other locations.
The Cabinet is currently working on making it legally mandatory for municipalities to provide reception locations for asylum seekers, but Secretary van der Burg says it will take some time. The most optimistic outlook is for the law to come out et the end of 2022.
In addition, van der Burg revealed he is in ‘very concrete discussions with one municipality’ to build a new application center for asylum seekers, reported RTV Noord. Right now, Ter Apel, as the only registration center in the Netherlands, is a mandatory stop for any asylum seeker in the country, which is one of the main reasons for overcrowding.
Another registration center – or three more, as the Cabinet has been teasing as a longer-term solution – would help release the pressure on Ter Apel and improve the living conditions of asylum seekers.