Tubbergen knew for months gov't could force asylum center to open in Albergen hotel
Despite claiming “total surprise” when the government used force to open an asylum seekers center in a hotel in Albergen, the responsible municipality of Tubbergen knew that force was an option for months in advance, RTV Oost reports. The local broadcaster got access to communications between the municipality and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) by appealing to the Open Government Act.
“It came as a total surprise. We were caught off guard,” Tubbergen alderman Ursula Berkhuis said after State Secretary Eric van den Burg (Asylum) announced on 16 August 2022 that he has designated hotel ‘t Elshuys in Albergen to be an asylum shelter. It was the first time in the Netherlands that the national government forced a municipality to allow an asylum shelter to open.
But behind the scenes, the COA had been warning Tubbergen for months that the government would use force if they couldn’t come to a voluntary agreement, according to RTV Oost. Talks about an asylum shelter in Albergen started in April. The “coercive option” was first mentioned in early June. “Announced that if they do not cooperate, then coercion is a real option, and they will lose control,” COA director Joeri Kapteijns said in an internal memo. He added that he’d prefer “to do it voluntarily, which creates a win-win situation.”
On 11 June, Kapteijns wrote to colleagues: “I have put pressure on the alderman to make a statement next Tuesday on whether they want to cooperate in asylum reception (...) If not, I indicated that coercive instruments could be used by the State.”
On June 21, the municipality said they would not cooperate with the plans for the asylum shelter. “The municipality has been informed that if they do not want to cooperate, there is a possibility that coercion will be used by the government. Nevertheless, the municipality did not change its position,” said the COA.
At the beginning of August, the involved Ministries gave the COA the green light to designate the ‘t Elshuys hotel in Albergen as an asylum center without the municipality’s cooperation. On 12 August 2022, the COA officially bought the hotel. Four days later, Albergen became national news.
Today, five months later, the Albergen hotel is still empty despite the Netherlands facing a shortage of thousands of reception places for asylum seekers. “We said to each other that we want to make agreements carefully together with local residents about the reception in Albergen. That takes time,” a spokesperson for the COA told RTV Oost. “At the same time, we assume that we will soon be able to house the first asylum seekers in Albergen. The aim is for the summer.” The COA plans to house 200 asylum seekers in the shelter.