Appeals for second asylum application center as Groningen looks to close Ter Apel
The Red Cross urgently appealed to the Cabinet to quickly open a second asylum application center due to the “extremely urgent” situation in asylum reception. Then people can register faster and wait for the asylum procedure “at least in an emergency shelter,” the aid organization said. The Veligheidsregio Groningen is looking at legal options to close the only application center in Ter Apel.
The Cabinet is in the process of opening a second application center in the Noordoostpolder municipality in Flevoland. Setting up and making the center operational in the village of Bant would take two months from July. Then, asylum seekers will be able to apply for asylum by appointment. But given the current situation, asylum seekers can “no longer wait” for this center, according to Red Cross director Marieke van Schaik.
Due to a housing shortage, refugees who received a residency permit in the Netherlands can not move into a home, so they occupy places in the asylum seekers’ shelters. That means people registering in Ter Apel can’t move to a shelter, so “people have been sleeping on chairs and tables for months and recently even in the open air,” Van Schaik summed up. “But every time you think we’ve reached rock bottom, we slide down another layer. That is downright inhumane.”
Volunteers from the organization helped in the application center during the past hot week, among other things, by handing out water, popsicles, sunscreen, and caps. “We saw people there who needed medical help and poor hygiene conditions,” said Van Schaik. “We are also concerned about the lack of information among the people who refuse to go on the bus to a crisis emergency shelter. They’d rather wait outside day and night because they are afraid of losing their place in the queue.” Those who did go to an emergency shelter did not know how and when to come back to file their application.
The Red Cross previously set up tents in Ter Apel, but the organization won't do that again. The tents “do not offer a full humanitarian solution, especially in the absence of safety, food, drink, and sanitation.”
On Thursday evening, Koen Schuiling, chairman of the Groningen security region and mayor of the city of Groningen, announced that they are looking into the legal options of closing the registration center in Ter Apel due to the dire situation there. A spokesperson for the mayor confirmed a report about this from RTL Nieuws.
“This leads to concerns about people’s health and social safety, and it leads to stressful situations. It is up to the mayor to prevent such situations,” Schuiling’s spokesperson said. The security region is looking at “what powers you could use to cope with the situation.” It is unclear whether and when the closure will really be discussed.
According to a spokesperson for the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA), this will not happen within a few weeks. “Whether this continues depends on the development in the coming weeks. So that remains to be seen and also depends on what perspective the Cabinet can offer in the coming period.” The COA understands Schuiling’s investigation “because the situation is untenable.”
This is not the first time the possibility of temporary closure has been considered. The security region also looked into it in March, but then it didn’t come to that.
Reporting by ANP