Overflowing asylum center has Cabinet pushing additional relief facilities
After images surfaced from the asylum application center in Ter Apel, where people had to wait outside into the early hours of Wednesday morning for a place to sleep, the Cabinet has asked the Groningen security region to deploy crisis emergency shelters for people who are left in the cold. This could mean housing people in locations like sports halls, said State Secretary Eric van der Burg, who handles the portfolio of asylum issues for the Cabinet.
Bizarre omstandigheden bij het aanmeldcentrum in Ter Apel: er is letterlijk geen plek meer.— Martijn Klungel (@MartijnKlungel) May 10, 2022
Tientallen asielzoekers moeten op het grasveld voor het aanmeldcentrum slapen…
Het is de afgelopen maanden nog nooit zo uit de hand gelopen. #rtvnoord pic.twitter.com/Te1uqB8hGZ
"It went very wrong in Ter Apel last night," Van der Burg acknowledged. It has become so busy in Ter Apel that it is no longer possible to transfer people to alternative locations in time. As a result, dozens of people had to sleep outside in the overnight period from Tuesday to Wednesday. They ended up staying for hours in waiting rooms in the center, where there were no beds for them.
"I think it is terrible that we were unable to offer these people a roof over their heads for several hours," said Van der Burg. "This is not how we want to treat people who seek our protection in the Netherlands."
Van der Burg expects that the serious shortage of places will continue for almost a week. He earlier argued for a better dispersal of the pressure on the asylum reception system throughout the Netherlands, and called on municipalities to "to take responsibility for the task we face together."
The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, responded with anger and horror at the scene depicted in the images from the center. GroenLinks parliamentarian Suzanne Kroger called the situation in Ter Apel last night "terrible and degrading" but "not unexpected. According to her, it is a "conscious policy" to plan the reception capacity as tightly as possible. She argued for more small-scale reception because there is more support for this among municipalities than for large reception centers like the one in Ter Apel. The Cabinet has to make more money available for that, she said.
Kroger also reiterated her appeal to Van der Burg for a joint approach to the reception of regular asylum seekers and refugees from Ukraine. "It is distressing that thousands of beds for Ukrainians are empty, while in Ter Apel people have to lie on the floor."
"The asylum reception is a mess," said SP parliamentarian Jasper van Dijk. "The Cabinet must do a lot more work on good reception with sufficient capacity and faster procedures. People entitled to asylum must move on [to homes] quickly, and those not entitled to asylum must return."
"It is too sad for words that we as a country treat people fleeing from war and violence in this way," said PvdA MP Kati Piri. "Unwillingness or impotence, the fact is that the Cabinet has failed miserably to arrange decent shelter for these people. The State Secretary must immediately travel through town and country and look for extra places to sleep."
"What poignant images," said ChristenUnie parliamentarian Don Ceder. "This is unacceptable. We cannot welcome people who flee from war and conflicts in the Netherlands in this way. We can and must do better."
CDA parliamentarian Evert Jan Slootweg called it "impossible" that people have to sleep outside. "Too much is being asked of Ter Apel. That is why the CDA wants a second application center for the first reception of asylum seekers in the short term." The party has been arguing for the appointment of a national coordinator to arrange extra shelter more quickly when necessary.
"This cannot be allowed any longer," said Anne-Marijke Podt of the D66. "Another registration center must be opened before the summer." She believes that the Cabinet should also make it more attractive for municipalities to take in asylum seekers. She also argued for more "permanent centers" instead of constantly changing locations for emergency shelters.
Reporting by ANP.