Mayors pleased with law to spread asylum seekers fairly; Implementation still a concern
The mayors on the Security Council are relieved and satisfied that State Secretary Eric van den Burg’s (Asylum) distribution law finally got the green light on Tuesday. The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) called it “good that there has been a breakthrough.” Though the VNG still has concerns about the feasibility of Van den Burg’s proposals “and the period within which this must be done.”
Among other things, the law regulates that the government can force municipalities to take in asylum seekers if they refuse to do so voluntarily. In an attempt to avoid this, the government will pay municipalities that house at least 100 asylum seekers a bonus of 2,500 euros per asylum seeker, provided they participate in the program voluntarily and maintain the facilities for at least five years. Van den Burg intends to implement the law on January 1. He planned to present it early in October, but it only got the green light from the coalition more than a month later.
The fact that the law will take effect shortly will already impact reluctant municipal authorities, expects Hubert Bruls, chairman of the Security Council and mayor of Nijmegen.
“Together, we form a kingdom, and we all have to do our part in it. The fact that the law is now in place cannot be underestimated,” Bruls said. “Municipalities now know that they have to because they can be forced. It is the proverbial stick.” There are still quite a few municipalities that refuse to make room for asylum seekers. “Immediately, that is no longer possible. We already know that many more places will be needed next year,” said Bruls. It is not so much about emergency and crisis shelters but about opening regular asylum shelters where asylum seekers can live for a longer period and in decent conditions.
The Security Council will discuss with Van der Burg how they’ll arrange asylum reception next year. The intention is that the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) will take over the organization of asylum reception from the security regions as of April 1. Arranging emergency shelter spots is not a task for municipalities, the Security Council stressed. “We helped because it was a crisis. But it can’t stay that way. We still have to dot the i’s, cross the t’s and study the content of the law carefully. The law came too late, but better late than never,” said Bruls.
The VNG is also worried about how late the law got accepted and the little time it leaves municipalities to get everything together. The VNG must now find out what the consequences of the Asylum Act are for municipalities, for example, in terms of “working method, deployment of people and resources, also in relation to the current working method regarding asylum reception,” a spokesperson said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the VNG said it wanted to stay outside the political part of the law. “We want the law to do what it is intended for,” the spokesperson said. And it cannot be allowed “that a political reality is poured out on the municipalities.” The VNG believes that the delay forces the assessment to be carried out more quickly “than is actually justified. After all, the asylum seekers’ situation requires action.”
Reporting by ANP