Amsterdam offers to relieve crisis by housing 1,000 asylum seekers on cruise ship
The Amsterdam city council has agreed to offer temporary accommodation to at least a thousand extra asylum seekers with the use of a cruise ship in the Westelijk Havengebied. Asylum seekers will be allowed to stay there for a period of at least six months from 1 October. This makes Amsterdam the second municipality after Velsen-Noord to receive asylum seekers on a docked cruise ship.
The ships are being used to reduce the severe shortage of placements in a shelter. Initially, the Westelijk Havengebied will accommodate a thousand people, but the total may eventually rise to 1,500. This will be determined during two evaluations of the projects in the months ahead, according to the municipality.
"The situation in Ter Apel is heartbreaking," said Alderman Rutger Groot Wassink, who handles social affairs and refugee policy for the city’s executive branch. "We now have to come together to solve the shortage of reception locations so that refugees find a place."
He emphasized that the reception on the cruise ship is a short-term solution. "It is important that the national government, together with municipalities, reforms the stalled asylum chain, so that these kinds of emergency solutions are no longer necessary in the future, and people can be accommodated in a fixed place."
Justice and Security State Secretary Eric van der Burg thanked the Amsterdam city council for its help. "Temporary large-scale reception is very important to restore order to the asylum system. With the arrival of the cruise ship in Amsterdam, we are taking another step together in solving the crisis in the asylum chain."
Part of the agreements on the reception of asylum seekers is that the capital will receive a maximum of 12 million euros from the government to build flexible housing at an accelerated pace. This amount is intended for a thousand homes, but a total of 2,500 to 3,000 homes must become available as soon as possible to improve the situation on the over-stressed Amsterdam housing market.
The costs for the reception of asylum seekers on the cruise ship will be borne by the Dutch government, and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) is responsible for management and operation. The refugees will be offered programs aimed at improving integration, and there will be education, healthcare, and daytime activities available.
Amsterdam currently houses 2,100 refugees including those with residency status, apart from the Ukrainian refugees who now live in the capital.
Reporting by ANP