Rutte pledges full focus on asylum as EU demands investigation into baby's death
The Cabinet is currently “occupied with nothing else” than the “terrible situation” in Ter Apel, Prime Minister said upon entering budget talks at the Ministry of Finance on Thursday. The European Commission said it expects the Netherlands to thoroughly investigate how a baby could have died in the asylum reception and prevent it from happening again.
At the asylum registration center in Ter Apel, 700 asylum seekers have slept outside over the past nights. A 3-month-old baby died on Wednesday. And an asylum seeker was rushed to a hospital due to a heart attack on Thursday. Another man was also rushed to hospital. He has diabetes but has had no access to insulin for months.
The medical interventions were done by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which has been providing medical and psychological care outside the center in Ter Apel since Thursday. It is the first time that MSF has intervened in the Netherlands.
It is also the first time that the executive board of the European Union has responded to the problems in Ter Apel. The committee is generally reluctant to comment on member states’ asylum policies.
“We recall the fundamental importance of ensuring that all measures are taken to prevent such tragedies,” a spokesperson for the European Commission said. The Commission regrets “every death.” It is aware of “the challenging situation in the reception centers in the Netherlands” and is helping the Netherlands with this.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Poverty Policy Carola Schouten said she was “shocked” by the images in Ter Apel and the current situation. She called it “inhumane.” “This affects us all.” She said that the question of how it deteriorated to this point is not relevant at the moment. “We have to see how we can change the situation. We have to do what it takes to fix it.”
She would not directly address the question of why no member of the Cabinet visited Ter Apel on Thursday after the baby’s death and two medical emergencies. “I see a committed State Secretary [Eric van der Burg, Asylum] who is regularly in Ter Apel.” Van der Burg did not go to Ter Apel on Thursday.
Reporting by ANP