Union shocked by unsafe working conditions at asylum centers

Oisterwijk Asylum Center
The asylum reception center in Oisterwijk, Noord-Brabant (photo: COA) The asylum reception center in Oisterwijk, Noord-Brabant (photo: COA)

Union FNV received 60 reports in two weeks' time about unsafe working conditions at asylum centers across the Netherlands. Most of the reports concerned daily violent incidents, both among the residents and towards the staff of the asylum centers. The union is shocked and calls for immediate intervention, ANP reports.

The union opened a digital hotline for COA employees early in February after they raised concerns about their safety. Incidents include verbal and physical aggression, death threats, harassment, suicide attempts, drug problems, and threats with firearms, knives and other sharp objects. Asylum center staff also complained about unsafe buildings and insufficient security.

FNV wants the central agency for the reception of asylum seekers COA to immediately intervene and improve the work situation at all locations. According to the union, this involves hiring more employees, hiring extra security with more powers, and an investigation into the safety of the buildings. 

Milo Schoenmaker, CEO of the COA, recognizes the problems "The relatively small group that now ensures that my people and other asylum seekers feel unsafe does not belong in the shelter", he said to the news wire. He believes that the efforts and expertise needed to improve the situation are more suited to the police, Public Prosecutor and governments. "Together with these parties and the State Secretary, we have been looking for solutions that go further than we do now. These measures must not take too long, that is shown by the signals from employees that reach me."

Last month the Inspectorate of Justice and Security released a report saying that the employees of the country's two extra accompaniment and supervision asylum centers are not equipped to handle the criminal- and antisocial behavior of the residents in these centers. The employees at these two centers are increasingly faced with residents with addiction-, medical-, or psychological problems - issues the employees are not trained to deal with.