Preparations underway to send Patriot missiles to Slovakia; Refugee situation officially a “crisis”
The Netherlands and Germany are preparing to send Patriot missiles to Slovakia at the request of NATO. Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongern said after a Cabinet meeting about the war in Ukraine that they've decided in principle to do so. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the government would treat the reception of large numbers of refugees from the Ukraine crisis as a crisis. This means that there will be regular consultations on the matter under the leadership of Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz (Justice and Security).
The Dutch Ministry of Defense is now logistically preparing the deployment of the air defense weapons with the Germans "in the lead," Ollongren said. About 150 Dutch soldiers will accompany the missiles. It is not yet clear when the missiles will be sent to Slovakia, but according to her, it will be as soon as possible. A formal decision must first be made.
The deployment of the Patriots is intended to reinforce the eastern flank of the NATO area. NATO is concerned about that flank because of the Russian threat. A Patriot missile can take out other missiles, helicopters, and planes very quickly at high altitudes. The weapon system has a reach of 20 kilometers high and 60 kilometers away. The Dutch armed forces have had this system since 1987. It has been modernized in recent years.
By officially labeling the refugee situation a crisis, different Ministries can work together more quickly to manage the reception of Ukrainians and solve all kinds of issues, Rutte explained. This includes, for example, public housing, education, and care. They will also cooperate with the relevant sectors. The current people fleeing Ukraine mainly consist of women and children who have to go to school. They'll also need care like psychological help with the traumas they may have suffered.
Rutte said it is impossible to estimate how many Ukrainians will eventually end up in the Netherlands. According to him, most people are fleeing to neighboring countries like Poland and Moldova. If it gets too much there, Rutte said, they will come to other countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, and England.
So far, almost 1,400 Ukrainians have registered in the Netherlands, State Secretary Eric van den Burg (Asylum and Migration) said in a letter to parliament. He expects that many more people will arrive in the coming period. According to him, the Netherlands can handle the inflow of asylum seekers for the time being. Last night there was a shortage of beds in Harskamp, but hundreds of beds were still available elsewhere in the country, he said.
According to the State Secretary, about 2,000 shelter places are currently available for Ukrainians. The Security Regions are arranging 50,000 places, half of which will be available within days. Extra room must be found for this reception, on top of the pre-existing "acute demand" for reception capacity for groups from other countries, including children and young people who came to the Netherlands without their parents.
According to the United Nations, over 2 million people have been displaced by the war in Ukraine.
Reporting by ANP.