Several buildings in the asylum seekers centre complex in the Groningen town of Ter Apel have been evacuated. The evacuated area includes the asylum process application centre where many employees have fallen ill since 2015.
Employees at the centre, including staff from the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA), janitors and security guards, first began falling ill in 2015. According to Dagblad van het Noorden, 70 unaccompanied minor asylum seekers who were living in this part of the centre have been relocated to another section of the large complex to live with other asylum seekers.
One employee described the move as highly unusual, and another said that unaccompanied minors are meant to have additional security and supervision at all times, and that moving them to live with other asylum seekers goes against established policy.
The young men and women were reportedly relocated after comments from Joop Atsma, a member of a committee investigating the reports of illness in the centre. In January, Atsma told Dagblad van het Noorden that many of the cases involved similar symptoms and that there must be something going on in the centre.
According to sources who wish to remain anonymous out of fear of losing their jobs, Atsma’s statements worried the staff at the centre. Astma said that he was not aware that the unaccompanied minors had been relocated in the camp and referred further questions to the COA, but the COA did not provide any additional information.
More than 20 percent of the staff at the center went on sick leave last year. Ill employees have reported experiencing symptoms including exhaustion, high blood pressure, skin irritation, nose bleeds and joint pain.
Photo source: architectuur.nl