Dutch housing for asylum seekers overcrowded

The reception centers for asylum seekers in the Netherlands are currently filled to bursting, the central agency for the reception of asylum seekers COA said on Thursday. So far this year, the COA sheltered nearly 27 thousand people, just below the level of 2016 when the Netherlands was dealing with the aftermath of the refugee crisis, NU.nl reports.

The COA has been using its reserve capacity since mid-2018 due to a larger than expected influx of asylum seekers. These 2 thousand 'reserve' beds are currently full, and the largest asylum center in the country in Ter Apel is almost filled to capacity. This means that protected housing for members of the LGBTQ community will soon have to be used for heterosexual asylum seekers, the COA said. 

There are multiple reasons for the full centers, Werner van Bastelaar of the COA said to NU.nl. The number of asylum applications increased somewhat over the past months, though this number is still hundreds below the same period last year. In the first three quarters of this year, 16,530 asylum seekers and 2,920 family members arrived in the Netherlands, Statistics Netherlands reported based on provisional figures on Thursday.

Another problem is that there are 5,500 people with refugee status who cannot leave the asylum centers because of the shortages on the housing market - no home can be found for them. "There are municipalities that place asylum seekers in accordance with the agreements, but also municipalities that are behind", Van Bastelaar said.

And finally, asylum seekers have to wait longer and longer for immigration and naturalization center IND to process their asylum application. The service had to recruit more staff last year to deal with ever increasing waiting lists, and in April more measures were taken to reduce processing time. But it did not have much effect. As of March, asylum seekers with a relatively good chance of getting refugee status and a residency permit in the Netherlands have to wait 28 weeks for their application to be processed. For asylum seekers whose cases need to be investigated, the waiting time is now 46 weeks.