Cities blame asylum crisis mismanagement on Cabinet; Call for solution by October
The Dutch security regions will stop taking responsibility for crisis asylum shelters on October 1, said mayor Hubert Bruls of Nijmegen, chairman of the Security Council. The security regions cannot solve the asylum shelter crisis, and it is not their responsibility to do so. “It is bizarre that municipalities are given a lot of responsibility and therefore also criticism, while that responsibility really lies with the central government,” Bruls said, NOS reports.
The 25 security regions agreed with the government to give 225 asylum seekers emergency shelter. They aimed to have 5,625 shelter places available from July 1 to relieve pressure on the overcrowded asylum registration center in Ter Apel. On Friday, the counter stood at approximately 3,000 reception places, according to NOS.
Bruls said municipalities will continue cooperating in tackling the asylum crisis but will no longer accept responsibility for it. He said the problem would continue to exist as long as there was no structural solution from the central government. He mentioned designating large-scale reception locations and stopping asylum seekers from safe countries before they enter the Dutch asylum system as possible solutions.
When asked why the Security Council, which consists of the mayors that head the security regions, decided to give the government an ultimatum now, Bruls said it was to provide the government with time to act. “If we wait until the end of September, we will have our backs against the wall again. That is why we are now sending out an early signal. There must be a structural solution before October 1.”
Bruls called the situation around the registration center in Ter Apel horrible. Over the past weeks, people regularly had to sleep outside because there was no space for them. On Saturday night, about 300 people spent the night outside in makeshift tents, with many others sleeping on chairs in the center’s waiting areas. “These are images I thought I’d only see in France and Hungary,” Bruls said.
On Tuesday, the Security Council is meeting with State Secretary Eric van der Burg for Asylum again to discuss a short-term solution. A spokesperson for Van der Burg told NOS that he is working on a “sustainable and stable reception” for the long term. “The search for large reception locations is continuing.”
According to Van der Burg, stopping asylum seekers from safe countries from entering the asylum process is impossible. But the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) is already prioritizing their applications so they can be deported as soon as possible.
This week the Ministry of Justice and Security also announced that people who had a temporary residency permit in Ukraine, for example, international students who studied in Ukraine, will no longer be eligible for municipal shelter in the Netherlands. Most of them are from safe countries, the Ministry said. “For example, there are known cases of people who first returned to their own country after the war started and then traveled to the Netherlands.” The Ministry also noticed an increase in this group coming from other EU countries because the Netherlands had more extensive facilities.
By deporting people with a temporary residency permit in Ukraine, the Ministry hopes to reduce the pressure on municipal shelters. Though as the shelter for Ukrainian refugees is arranged separately from other asylum seekers, it is not clear whether this will mean anything for the situation in Ter Apel.