There is a shortage of everything to receive asylum in the Netherlands

Dozens, sometimes more than a hundred, people have spent the night in chairs at the center for asylum seekers in Ter Abel in recent weeks. How can reception be so bad that such emergency solutions should be resorted to?

1Why is there so little space in Ter Apel that people have to sleep on chairs?

Reasons: An increase in the number of asylum seekers and problems in the ability to receive and process asylum applications. Almost all people entering the Netherlands must inform Ter Apel, where the registration center of the Immigration and Nationality Service (IND) is located. “About two hundred people are being added every day,” a spokesperson for the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) says by phone. And that’s while the site has been full for ages.

2What do emergency measures mean in Ter Apel?

COA says that in the event of a Ter Apel overflow, “two severe emergency solutions” are available, both of which are “not quite in line with what we see as well received”. First of all, there is a gym in which mattresses can be placed for about fifty people. When that room is full, asylum seekers must sleep on chairs in the waiting rooms of the IND. According to the spokesperson, putting beds in the camp to give people a comfortable night’s sleep is not an option: “It automatically means you can fit fewer people, because of the space that bed takes up. What are you going to do next with the people who have no room for them anymore?”

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3What are the capacity problems that stand in the way of solution?

First of all, both COA and IND have very few employees. Asylum seekers are registered and medically examined in Ter Apel. “The procedure is taking longer than expected due to the lack of staff,” the spokeswoman said. The application center, which has an official capacity of 275 people, is also quite full. Asylum seekers have to move to regular asylum seekers centers in a few days, but often there is no place there either. Sometimes there is space but no transportation due to the shortage of bus drivers. The main problem is that asylum seekers cannot move to where they should actually be.

4What is being done to resolve this acute “situation situation”?

Emergency care should be arranged for crises in the short term, as security districts are currently doing. Four regions take turns providing shelter to a total of six hundred asylum seekers for a period of two weeks. This concerns, for example, hotels, gyms or a former library. In the medium term, work is underway on large-scale temporary accommodation, such as ships (cruises) in Vlissingen (two thousand places). In the long term, there should be more reception sites on a structural basis, says a COA spokesperson. And a single registration center, as now with the Ter Apel, is no longer sufficient.

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