Asylum agency on verge of collapse due to absenteeism
The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) is on the verge of collapse due to staff shortages and absenteeism, NRC reports based on its own research. The COA confirmed the image.
At the asylum application center in Ter Apel, the largest asylum center in the Netherlands, almost a third of COA employees are not at work. Many people drop out at other COA locations as well. Nationwide, the COA’s absenteeism is 9 percent - almost twice as high as the national average.
On top of that, the agency is also facing staff shortages, like almost every sector in the Netherlands. The COA has a thousand unfilled vacancies it needs to fill by the end of this year.
The COA confirmed these figures, saying it’s been struggling for months. In October, the agency warned the Ministry of Justice and Security that asylum reception “threatened to fall below human standards for both residents and employees,” a spokesperson said to NRC. And things have only gotten worse since.
The COA currently employs about 4,000 people. It accommodates 43,000 asylum seekers and refugees and has to increase that to 51,000 reception places by the end of this year. The application center in Ter Apel is constantly overcrowded, with people sleeping in chairs in waiting areas or even outside. Which means that already overworked employees are faced with angry, tired, and hopeless people.
More asylum seekers are coming to the Netherlands, but that is not the sole source of the COA’s problems. The Immigration and Naturalization Center (IND) is also struggling with backlogs, resulting in asylum applications taking even longer than usual.
The Netherlands’ housing crisis also plays a big part. Municipalities are making fewer houses available for refugees - asylum seekers who got residency in the Netherlands - than agreed. So refugees are stuck staying in asylum centers, which means there’s no room for new people to flow through from the application center in Ter Apel to regular reception.
The COA also has an extremely difficult time finding new places to open asylum shelters. Municipalities have about 4,000 unused reception places set aside for Ukrainian refugees, which they don’t want to make accessible for other asylum seekers, according to the newspaper. On Friday, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights made clear that this is discrimination.