“Idiotic” that tents were taken from asylum seekers, says activist; Red Cross closed
Two hundred tents that a group of entrepreneurs distributed to asylum seekers in Ter Apel on Monday were taken away by the police and municipality of Westerwolde on Tuesday evening. Idiotic, activist Willem Straat said. “Those tents belong to those asylum seekers, and taking them is theft. I’m going to find out how I can do something about it,” said Straat, the initiator of the action. The Red Cross’ humanitarian service point in Ter Apel will remain closed for the time being.
In consultation with the security region, the mayor of Westerwolde, which Ter Apel falls under, had decided to remove the tents. A municipal spokesperson said the tents caused problems for (fire) safety and hygiene, among other things. “We don’t know what’s going on in the tents,” she said. “We really appreciate what these entrepreneurs have done, but it doesn’t offer a solution or make the work here any easier.”
A local entrepreneur collected 12,500 euros through a crowdfunding campaign and bought the pop-up tents. The tents were distributed on Monday evening to asylum seekers who had to sleep outside in front of the gate to the application center in Ter Apel because there was no room for them inside the center. “I don’t know where they get their knowledge from,” Straat responded to the municipality’s reasons for removing the tents. “I don’t know whether the people who come up with the policy ever come there. They reject them because you can’t see through the tents. But at night, it is pitch dark, with bushes all around. All kinds of crazy things can happen there.”
The entrepreneur said there had been occasional confrontations because asylum seekers’ meager possessions allegedly got stolen. But with the tents, “people can put their things in them and sit in front of them.” According to him, there is much less misery and arguing that way.
The municipality said it would return the tents to the Groningen entrepreneurs. “Those tents no longer belong to us,” Straat said. “We gave them to the asylum seekers. So the tents are theirs.” The idea was that, when they no longer need them, the asylum seekers could pass the tents on to others who could use them, the entrepreneur said. “I have ordered new tents, and we will hand them out.” When that happens depends on when they’re delivered.
The Red Cross closed its humanitarian service point near the asylum application center in Ter Apel after a fight broke out on the site on Sunday. The aid organization planned to open it again on Wednesday after employees received extra training should there be further unrest. But on Wednesday morning, the Red Cross decided to keep it closed for the time being.
Tuesday was restless again at the application center. And people again had to sleep outside overnight. “Safety comes first,” the Red Cross spokeswoman said. “The situation changes from day to day. This morning it turned out that it was not yet safe enough.”
The aid organization opened the service point to provide first aid and information to asylum seekers. The workers there received 155 requests for help daily, the spokeswoman said. When the service point will reopen is “difficult to say.”
Reporting by ANP and NL Times