Dutch criticized for "harmfull" refugee tent camps

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Asylum seekers protesting in Nijmegen against poor conditions in Heumensoord tent shelter (Photo: @1992Nijmegen/Twitter). Asylum seekers protesting in Nijmegen against poor conditions in Heumensoord tent shelter, Dec 10th, 2015 (Photo: @1992Nijmegen/Twitter)

In the future asylum seekers should not be sheltered in a large tent camp such as the Heumensoord camp in Nijmegen, according to the Board for the protection of Human Rights and the National Ombudsman. The massive tent camp with nearly 3 thousand residents has too little privacy, meaningful activities and living expenses, which is harmful to the asylum seekers health and safety, the two institutions concluded in a report following a visit to the camp, broadcaster NOS reports.

A number of things urgently need to change in the camp, which will be used until June 1st. The report makes sixteen suggestions on how the conditions has to change.

The COA, the central agency for the reception of asylum seekers, does not know what is going on among the camps residents, according to the report. This is because the asylum seekers want to solve problems informally, which means that the COA does not hear about the complaints. As a result the leadership does not know about the lack of security and quality of life that the asylum seekers experience.

The Board and Ombudsman also concluded that camp staff do not recognize the signals of LGBT asylum seekers being harassed by other camp residents. To fix that the report suggests that employees be trained to recognize discrimination. They also suggest that the COA investigate what vulnerable groups such as gay men and pregnant women need in a shelter and find another location to house them if their safety can not be guaranteed in Heumensoord.

The report advises that more attention is paid to informing the asylum seekers about the complaints procedure. Some asylum seekers do not even know that the procedure exists. Those who do feel ignored by the COA and do not know where to turn with t heir complaints. And if they do complain, they do not get any feedback. Employees of gay movement COC and Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland are also not familiar with the COA's complaints procedure. This can be fixed by giving the procedure more publicity, for example by distributing leaflets or employing special complaints officers and counselors.

Asylum seekers also complained about the medical care at the camp, but according to the Ombudsman and Board, this is up to standard. They recommend that the asylum seekers are given more information on the Dutch healthcare system and how it works.

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