Municipalities under intense administrative pressure with Ukrainian refugees
Eight in ten Dutch municipalities face increased administrative pressure due to the reception of tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, NOS reports based on a survey of about half of the municipalities. The broadcaster found that support for taking in Ukrainians fleeing from the Russian invasion remains strong, unlike with other refugees, where the government is working on a law to force municipalities to take refugees in from 2023.
NOS surveyed some 160 municipalities of various sizes and spread across the Netherlands. Eight in ten said they're struggling with increased administrative pressure. Half said pressure on schools increased. And nearly 40 percent said that local healthcare is visibly busier, especially the general practitioners.
Municipalities' biggest challenge was how quickly they had to set up reception locations. When the Cabinet decided that municipalities would be responsible for sheltering Ukrainian refugees instead of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA), they had to spark to get locations and people ready.
Shortages in the labor market also made it more difficult to find people to work in the shelters. So some municipalities deployed their own officials. Den Bosch, for example, has 45 officials working at shelters. And that comes at the expense of their other work. For example, civil servants wh usually spend a significant part of their working time on shelters for homeless people or young people with problems now have no time for this.
According to the latest figures, 59,610 Ukrainian refugees are registered in the Netherlands. Municipalities are sheltering almost two-thirds of them. The others found a place in private homes. NOS called it striking that hardly any municipalities have noticed a decline in support for taking in Ukrainian refugees.
That is not the case for sheltering "regular" asylum seekers and refugees, for whom the COA is responsible. The registration center in Ter Apel, where asylum seekers have to file their first application, is almost always overcrowded, often resulting in people sleeping in chairs. State Secretary Eric van der Burg of Asylum and Migration is working on a new law that will oblige every municipality in the Netherlands to take in asylum seekers, he said after the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, the Volkskrant reports.
In the meantime, the Cabinet will take a more compelling stance toward municipalities that have so far refused to take in their share of asylum seekers. The time for asking nicely has passed, Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Housing and Spatial Planning said. On Monday, the Cabinet already announced that each of the 25 security regions has to set up temporary emergency shelters with space for 150 people. Those 3,750 beds are a temporary measure while the Cabinet works on a more permanent solution.
The Cabinet will first focus on accommodating refugees - asylum seekers whose asylum application was granted and who now have a residency permit in the Netherlands. Lack of space means that refugees are stuck staying in asylum shelters, leaving no room for new asylum seekers to flow through from the Ter Apel registration center.
Provinces will be in charge of monitoring that municipalities fulfill their task of housing refugees. The central government will also make some of its own buildings available for sheltering asylum seekers, even if city councils previously rejected transforming the barracks and offices into asylum shelters. If the municipality refuses to issue the necessary permit, the Cabinet will take over the permit process, according to the newspaper.