Still more children in Dutch emergency asylum shelters; UNICEF very concerned
The number of children and unaccompanied minors in emergency asylum shelters in the Netherlands is still increasing, UNICEF reported based on figures from the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA). The United Nations children’s rights organization is very concerned about these children’s safety and development, NOS reports.
At the end of August, there were 3,969 children in emergency shelters, including 1,844 unaccompanied minors - children not accompanied by a parent or guardian. In mid-June, there were 3,294, including 1,498 unaccompanied minors.
In the emergency shelters, the children have no perspective, little to nothing to do, no privacy, and limited to no access to education, UNICEF Nederland director Suzanne Laszlo said. They are often left unsupervised, sleep alone in dirty beds, and don’t have access to clean sanitary facilities, which can cause health problems. “How well these children are cared for varies per location and is very unclear, which is worrying,” Laszlo said.
Children on the run, like all children, deserve to be cared for and safe. UNICEF urged parliament to handle the distribution law, which obliges municipalities to arrange shelter for asylum seekers, as quickly as possible so that these kids can move to regular shelters where they will be safer, with access to school and child-friendly activities.
Asylum seekers in the Netherlands typically stay in regular asylum seeker centers. But because these are beyond capacity, municipalities have opened temporary emergency shelters in gyms and event halls, among other things, to prevent asylum seekers from sleeping on the streets. Over 23,000 people have been staying in these emergency shelters, which often offer no more than a stretcher, for months.
The COA currently has more emergency shelters (129) than regular, permanent centers (80). According to the agency, this has many disadvantages, including the quality of the reception. Several aid organizations have raised the alarm about the poor quality of care at some emergency shelters. And a Dutch court even ordered the COA to get children and other vulnerable asylum seekers out of these temporary shelters as quickly as possible.
Outgoing State Secretary Eric van der Burg’s (Asylum) distribution law was meant to force municipalities to create more shelter spaces. The law stipulates that municipalities must jointly provide up to 40,000 new shelter spaces in the coming years. That is an average of 115 asylum seekers per municipality. But, due to the Rutte IV Cabinet’s collapse, it is unclear what will happen to this law. Several municipalities have already stopped their plans for new asylum centers due to that uncertainty, according to NOS.
The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, has returned from summer recess this week. Their first order of business is deciding which politically sensitive files are too controversial for the current caretaker to continue handling. That could easily include the distribution law. If the MPs declare the law controversial, it will be put on the backburner until after a new Cabinet is installed.