Gov't looking for 1,200 shelter spaces for asylum seekers by Monday, incl. 550 for kids
Outgoing State Secretary Eric van der Burg asked municipalities to create hundreds of shelter spaces for asylum seekers. He needs 450 spots from Saturday, including 250 for unaccompanied children. From Monday, he needs another 750 places, of which 300 are for unaccompanied children, NOS reports. Already by 5 p.m., Arnhem announced it would provide shelter for another 200 adults, and Zwolle said it could take in another 60 people.
On Wednesday night, 351 unaccompanied children spent the night in Ter Apel. The registration center only has space for 50 unaccompanied children. If nothing changes, children will be sleeping on the floor.
Many asylum seekers are currently reporting to the registration center in Ter Apel every day, Van der Burg said. The influx of people is always highest in September, but this month surpassed expectations, he said. The center is registering over 250 asylum seekers per day.
In extreme cases, the government will accompany asylum seekers in hotels, for example. But Van der Burg wants to prevent that. He, therefore, begged the municipalities to help. The need will remain high after this week, too, he said.
The city of Arnhem already houses asylum seekers and refugees in several large ships. It intended to bring in another ship on Friday evening to house 95 more adults by Friday night, and plans to secure another ship over the weekend to house about 100 others. However, the city said that it would not use the ships to receive more unaccompanied minors, as the situation is not safe enough for children. Once the two ships are in place, Arnhem will have enough shelter available for nearly 3,000 people, including 950 Ukrainian refugees, and those seeking asylum from elsewhere, according to ANP.
Van der Burg has been trying for some time to distribute asylum seekers more fairly across the municipalities. His distribution law, which will force municipalities to take in their fair share of people, will be discussed in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, next week. The MPs considered the matter too urgent to leave for the next Cabinet and instructed the outgoing Cabinet to keep working on it.
The State Secretary for Asylum Affairs, which falls under the Ministry of Justice and Security, started working on the distribution law last year. At the time, the Ter Apel center was completely overwhelmed by the number of asylum seekers arriving every day. Hundreds of people had to sleep outside for nights in a row. The situation became so dire that Doctors Without Borders stepped in to help - the first time ever that the aid organization intervened in the Netherlands.
A Dutch court ordered the government to improve shelter for asylum seekers as soon as possible and to immediately remove children and other vulnerable people from the emergency shelters, which often consist of little more than a stretcher among hundreds on a gym floor. The government appealed against the ruling, calling the requirements impossible to achieve.