Netherlands' asylum shelters don't meet EU standards, court rules
Asylum reception in the Netherlands does not meet European standards, and the government must take immediate measures to address this. The administrative court in The Hague made that ruling on Thursday morning in a lawsuit filed by refugees’ organization Vluchtelingenwerk, NU.nl and NOS report.
Vluchtelingenwerk sued the Dutch state this summer because of the substandard asylum reception in the country. At the time, hundreds of asylum seekers had to sleep outside the asylum registration center in Ter Apel because there was nowhere for them to go. The situation has been somewhat remedied with more emergency shelters, but these offer only the bare necessities. In addition, the number of reception places decreased at the start of this month, instead of increased.
The refugees’ organization demanded that the Netherlands do more than meet the bare minimum requirements in the reception of asylum seekers and refugees. They also want to prevent vulnerable people from being placed in temporary shelters.
The court ruled in favor of Vluchtelingenwerk that vulnerable groups cannot be placed in temporary emergency shelters. Families with children younger than 1 year, pregnant women, and asylum seekers who need a lot of care may no longer go to emergency shelters at all. That also applies to unaccompanied minors - children who came to seek asylum in the Netherlands without a parent or guardian. They are also not allowed to stay in Ter Apel for more than five days.
The court ruled that other vulnerable groups can only go to emergency shelters if they can receive the proper care and support in those locations.
Vluchtelingenwerk also demanded that shelters for asylum seekers meet more than just the most basic needs. The refugee council asked for a lockable bedroom, free access to sanitary facilities, and enough food for all asylum seekers, also considering their eating habits.
The court also ruled in Vluchtelingenwerk’s favor on this count. The State and COA must provide a bedroom “with a minimum of 4m2 of sleeping space per person, a door that can be locked, and a window that can be opened.” The State has nine months to meet this requirement. The court also ruled that the State and COA must immediately ensure that all asylum seekers have 24/7 access to drinking water and sufficient and suitable food.
The lawyer representing the State and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) acknowledged during a previous hearing that the reception is subpar at the moment “and sometimes much lower than we were used to and wanted.”
But at the same time, the state attorney said that the quality of reception is generally acceptable and that the government is making every reasonable effort to take people in and improve the existing shelter locations. It makes little sense to give the State an order it cannot comply with, the lawyer said.
State Secretary Eric van der Burg for Asylum and Migration declined to respond to the ruling. “We are doing everything we can to improve the situation, but we need to study the ruling for a substantive response,” his spokesperson said to NOS.