Following weeks of over-crowding, temporary tents provided by the Red Cross are finally being removed from outside the refugee reception and application center in Ter Apel. This comes after a new center was opened in the Limburg town of Geleen in the hopes of alleviating some pressure from the situation on the border.
RTV Noord reported that, for weeks on end, refugees and asylum-seekers were forced to sleep on chairs in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) location, and in sports halls or tents due to insufficient application processing facilities. Those which were still in operation at the center seemingly came to a standstill due to the backlog of requests.
Following the temporary alleviation of the situation, the cabinet has officially opted to view the situation as a crisis, to the relief of the Red Cross.
According to the NOS, Prime Minister Mark Rutte indicated that the primary cause of the issue is due to a “blockage” resulting from lack of availability in other refugee centers around the country, rather than unusually high numbers of asylum seekers. Ter Apel itself is primarily designed to function as a reception center where asylum seekers apply to become ‘status-holders’ before moving to various other refugee centers throughout the country.
However, due to a growing backlog for permanent housing, which is typically assigned to status-holders waiting for placements in refugee centers, there is no available spaces for refugees looking to enter the country from Ter Apel, resulting in over-crowding.
The situation in Ter Apel and the ongoing housing “blockage” has re-sparked one of the cabinet’s most prudent debates of the decade: how will the Netherlands formulate a permanent solution to the influx of refugees?
“If municipalities arrange the reception of promising asylum seekers, the permanent crisis can be curbed,” notes a critical report released on the 14th of June by the Council for Public Administration and the Advisory Committee on Immigration Affairs.
The research report, which was supported by the state secretary for refugee matters, Eric van der Burg, calls on municipalities themselves to provide adequate reception centers, as well as find solutions to the housing blockage. The report, however, was not met with unanimous support from provincial leaders throughout the country.
“I am not very impressed with the report. Municipalities must arrange the reception of asylum seekers? How should municipalities do this? And where?” said Sybrand Buma, Mayor of Leeuwarden in response to the research, reports the Leeuwarder Courant. He argued that municipalities are already stretched to the limits of what they can feasibly arrange regarding the crisis.
Buma also stated that Leeuwarden has already gone above the average municipal response to the crisis, with their own centers also seemingly buckling under the same burden faced by the reception location in Ter Apel.
While the emergency in Ter Apel has subsided for the moment, discussions remain over the nature and form of a permanent solution to the situation.
Interested in reading more on the crisis? You can find our previous coverage on the situation here.
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