Asylum agency wants to open new reception centers in western Netherlands

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)

The central agency for the reception of asylum seekers COA wants to spread asylum centers more evenly across the Netherlands, which means that new asylum centers will mainly have to open in the west of the country, Milo Schoenmaker, chairman of the COA board, said in an interview with newspaper AD.

The COA currently has 70 asylum centers with accommodation for 24 thousand asylum seekers in the Netherlands. Only 10 to 15 of these centers are located in western Netherlands, according to the COA website. The agency wants to create space for another 2,500 people. And these centers will mainly have to be located in the west of the country, to spread out the asylum centers more evenly, Schoenmaker said. 

According to Schoenmaker, it is also important for asylum seekers to be accommodated near the municipality where they will eventually live if they are granted refugee status. "If a municipality can quickly contact an upcoming refugee, it can have a positive effect on integration and participation", he said. A more even distribution of asylum centers can help ensure that asylum seekers are accommodated in the proper place. 

The COA also wants to create a separate shelter for asylum seekers from countries that are considered safe like Morocco and Algeria, who stand little to no chance of being granted a residency permit in the Netherlands. Some of these asylum seekers cause problems in the asylum centers and the areas around them. Schoenmaker wants a "prison-like setting" for this group. "I think that the shelter must be there within a few months, we are discussing it with the ministry and prison system. Then those people will no longer be in regular shelters, that will really help", he said to the newspaper.

On Monday State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol of Justice and Security sent a letter to parliament showing that there were reports of 3,702 crimes committed by 1,813 asylum seekers last year. That is over a thousand more crime reports than the 2,610 committed by 1,712 asylum seekers the Public Prosecution Service reported earlier this year. These involve registered incidents, not convictions, NOS reports.

After an uproar about serious crimes being grouped under the 'other' category in the report earlier this year, the Public Prosecutor re-examined the figures of crimes committed by asylum seekers. The first figures were based on an automated search, now the Prosecutor partly worked manually. According to the Prosecutor, the difference in the figures has to do with crime registration numbers that were not always entered into the judiciary system in the exact same way, different spellings of first and last names, and "a lack of clarity with regard to the date of birth provided by the asylum seeker".