Dutch cities open emergency centers for hundreds of refugees

Asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean sea (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Vito Manzari)Asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean sea (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Vito Manzari)

Many Dutch municipalities are hastily arranging emergency shelter for refugees. The first 200 asylum seekers moved into the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht on Tuesday night. Other buildings transformed into emergency shelters include the barracks in Weert and the domed prison in Haarlem.

Utrecht alderman Margaret Jongerius told a BNR reporter that the mayor received a phone call concerning the Jaarbeurs on Tuesday afternoon. "The Jaarbeurs was approached by the COA with the question of whether 500 people could be accommodated there. We would have discussed that with the Council and the neighborhood on Thursday, but then came the request if it could be arranged the same evening." The asylum seekers will be allowed to live in the Jaarbeurs until October 24th.

Haarlem mayor and chairman of the Association of Mayors Bernt Schneiders says he finds it a good sign that so man municipalities are willing to help. "But the spirit among municipalities could be better. Mayors play a big roll in this."

The Haarlem mayor also thinks that there should be an improvement in the flow of refugees who have been granted asylum from the asylum centers to homes. "People who have gone through the asylum procedure, are having difficulty in being housed. If this flow is faster, for example by making empty office buildings habitable, places will free up in the asylum centers."

The COA, the central agency for the reception of asylum seekers in the Netherlands, is pleased that the city of Utrecht was willing to help at such short notice, Jan-Willem Anholts said to BNR. But he hopes that more suitable locations will become available soon. "But the current alternative is the street, so necessity wins out" he said.