Dutch mayors plead for smaller asylum reception facilities

King Willem-Alexander at an asylum center
King Willem-Alexander on visit to the asylum center in Ter Apel, 19 Jan 2016 (Photo: @koninklijkhuis/Twitter)Photo: Rotapool / Robin van Lonkhuijsen via RVD, @koninklijkhuis / Twitter)

Smaller asylum reception facilities with attention paid to integration right from the start are the solution to the problems the Netherlands currently faces surrounding the reception of asylum seekers, according to mayors Mark Buijs from Boxtel and Jan Hamming from Heusden in an open letter to the Volkskrant on Monday.

"We currently house asylum seekers in large-scale asylum centers where we leave them locked away from our society for the first twenty months on average. That is asking for trouble. We think the solution lies in small-scale shelters where there is attention for integration from the start. The asylum seekers get a face and the community supports them", the mayors write. According to them, they have the support of the police, a majority in the Tweede Kamer and the Association for Dutch Municipalities.

According to the mayors, one of the biggest concerns among many Dutch is how many asylum seekers will fit into their community. And that is something politics should listen to. Both of the Brabant municipalities have good experiences with smaller shelters.

Boxtel, which has about 30 thousand residents, took in a group of 50 Eritrean girls between the ages of 14 and 18 years. "A number of them was seriously ill, so much has happened to them", Buijs said in the newspaper. "I thought: I will not send them on, they're staying here. They now go to school, they attend the dance school, the girls are simply part of the Boxtel community. We have put our arms around them."

Heusden, which has about 43 thousand inhabitants, took in a group of 150 boys, mostly from Syria. "Some threatened to jump from a bridge over the highway. There were boys who maimed themselves out of sheer desperation", Hamming said to the newspaper. "I called the State Secretary and said that there will be no more messing around with those boys, they're staying here until there is a definite place for them. From day one we sent him to school and provided day activities and the nice thing was: the community stood around it. The Chinese brought food, the shoe store came with football shoes."

"Small scale locations are also easier to find than large scale and ensure a better spread across the country", the mayors write. "They also have much less impact on the environment and if there are problems, these are also smaller." They add that many Dutch are not against taking in asylum seekers, but against large scale reception. "We have to do something with that sound."