Dutch to pay cities bonuses to voluntarily take in more asylum seekers
The national government of the Netherlands wants to use cash to incentivize municipalities to provide shelter to more asylum seekers. Municipalities which create reception locations to house a minimum of 100 asylum seekers will receive 2,500 euros for each available spot provided they participate in the program voluntarily, and maintain the facilities for at least five years. Municipalities which are forced to shelter more asylum seekers will not receive the bonus payment for those spaces.
The law, which caused a deep divide within Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD party, can also force cities and towns to take more asylum seekers to ensure that every municipality does its fair share in resolving the asylum crisis. The final text of the law was made available by State Secretary Eric van der Burg, also a VVD member, who handles asylum issues on behalf of the Cabinet. “The aim of the bill is to achieve a sustainable and stable reception situation, with a balanced spread across the Netherlands,” he wrote in a letter to the Tweede Kamer.
Members of Parliament from the VVD faction met for several hours on Tuesday to resolve an impasse that threatened the party’s public standing and ability to continue participating in the coalition government. The bill likely needs the support of the entire VVD faction to pass.
Initially, municipalities will be asked how many placements they can offer voluntarily, which will prompt the government to create a two-year plan. Municipalities which quickly work out an arrangement with the government will then get the 2,500 euro bonus per placement, which will be in addition to funding they already receive when sheltering asylum seekers. The bonus payouts that the municipalities receive can be spent however they see fit, including on services for their permanent residents. Provinces will work with the municipalities to determine appropriate locations.
Provinces can also receive a bonus if they hit certain milestones, including 1,500 euros per placement when they exceed 75 percent of their goal. That money can be split between municipalities that do more than their fair share. “With this we are taking a step forward from the asylum reception crisis,” Van der Burg said of the bonuses.
However, if not enough spots are secured by 1 May, the government will lay down a new roadmap for local and regional governments to follow to realize additional placements without a bonus. Municipalities and provinces who miss a 1 September deadline can be forced to open up asylum shelters, again with no bonus paid.
Currently, the Netherlands is expected to see over 100,000 new asylum seekers enter the country by the end of 2024. There is an urgent need for 40,000 more places to shelter them, on the 15,000 which currently exist, according to the Ministry of Justice and Security.
Images of crowds of asylum seekers camping outside the main reception center in Ter Apel caused shock and dismay both in the Netherlands and abroad, particularly as many were in desperate need of clean toilets, facilities for hygiene, and medical services.