Efforts to block asylum center thwarted as government closes purchase of Albergen hotel
The Albergen hotel intended for use as initial housing for people wanting asylum in the Netherlands has been purchased by COA, the government agency responsible for the reception of asylum seekers. Area residents angered that up to 300 asylum seekers could be housed in the facility said on Wednesday evening they wanted to try to buy the Landhotel ‘t Elshuys before the government acquired the property.
A spokesperson for COA told broadcaster NOS that the purchase contract was already signed. The agency will be able to take possession of the property at the start of September, and asylum seekers could be received there later in the month.
It will be the first property designated by the national government for the reception of asylum seekers without agreement from the municipality involved. The village is within the municipality of Tubbergen, where Mayor Wilmien Haverkamp was among those angered by State Secretary Eric van der Burg’s decision to create the facility in the town. She called the move one which was unfairly being forced on the village. "That's not how you treat people," Haverkamp said on Wednesday, according to ANP.
Hundreds of people protested in front of the hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday evening in front of signs placed on the building, like, “Keep Albergen clean,” ‘What are you doing to our beautiful little village?“ and “Soon 10 percent immigrants, can we live here safely?“
"We are completely overwhelmed by the government's plan to accommodate 150 to 300 asylum seekers here in 27 hotel rooms," said protestor Hennie de Haan to RTV Oost. She was among those wanting to purchase the hotel to prevent COA from using it. "That number is disproportionate to the 3,500 people who live here in Albergen."
Van den Burg defended the decision, saying that it was impossible to reach an agreement with Tubbergen, despite the Cabinet’s best efforts. The VVD politician told NOS it was a choice "between a headache and a stomachache,” and said plans to open the facility will continue as relief is needed at the overcrowded location in Ter Apel.
One Tubbergen alderman, Ursula Bekhuis-Groothuis, also from VVD, accused the state secretary of dumping the problem in their laps.