Poor communities taking in more refugees than wealthy areas

Vluchtgarage protesters in Vondelpark 1
A group of asylum seekers hang out in Amsterdam's Vondelpark. April 15, 2015 (photo: Wij Zijn Hier / Facebook)A group of asylum seekers hang out in Amsterdam's Vondelpark. April 15, 2015 (photo: Wij Zijn Hier / Facebook)

Over the past decade Dutch municipalities with people with low incomes have taken in more than three times as many refugees than municipalities with wealthy residents.

This is according to research done by broadcaster NOS.

There is an average of 25,283 beds available to asylum seekers in the Netherlands per year. Nearly half of that number was provided by the 100 poorest municipalities in the country. The 100 wealthiest municipalities provided 3,354 beds. The municipalities Pekela, Stadskanaal, Vlagtwedde, Het Bilt and Dongeradeel are among the 10 poorest municipalities in the Netherlands. Together these municipalities provide nearly 4 thousand beds for asylum seekers per year.

The central agency for the reception of asylum seekers COA, who is responsible for selecting sites for asylum centers, could not explain to NOS why poor municipalities are taking in so many more refugees. According to the agency, they look for municipalities that have large empty buildings and where the politicians are willing to take in large groups.

Opening an asylum center also has some economic benefits, which may be more attractive to the poorer communities. The application center in Ter Apel, for example, created hundreds of jobs for the Vlagtwedde municipality and surroundings. The reception center was built by local contractors.

Though most of the poor municipalities that spoke to NOS told the broadcaster that they are not looking for economic benefits when taking in asylum seekers. The municipality of Het Bildt in Noordwest-Friesland told NOS that the economic benefits are a plus, but the most important thing is the broad support among the residents. Aldermen in Emmen, Den Helder and Venlo also said that money hardly plays a role.

PvdA parliamentarian Attje Kuiken thinks that the COA and municipalities should do more to make sure that refugees are spread across the Netherlands as evenly as possible. "All municipalities have the responsibility to take in refugees", she said to the broadcaster. "The reception of asylum seekers should be something of the Netherlands, not just the poor municipalities outside the Randstad."

She added that she understands that space in municipalities and economic benefits for communities plays a big role in the choice of location.