The Netherlands will need to create 38,000 reception places for asylum seekers this year due to a combination of contracts for existing shelters expiring and more asylum seekers expected from the spring, Nieuwsuur reports.
According to the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA), the Netherlands will need 75,500 reception places this year. It currently has just under 50,000. But according to figures viewed by Nieuwsuur, about 35 locations throughout the country will close their doors between now and June 1. That leaves the country 38,000 short of the 75,500 reception places target.
Sander Schaap of the refugee organization Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland finds that very concerning. “I think it is up to everyone to avoid what we saw at Ter Apel last year,” he said to the program. “If you look at the figures, you can see it will be really stressful in the coming weeks and months. But making people sleep outside, especially with these temperatures, is just not an option.”
State Secretary Eric van der Burg (Asylum and Migration) told Nieuwsuur that he is “doing everything possible” to prevent people from sleeping outside again. He confirmed that the COA needs tens of thousands of extra shelter spaces. “The task is great. But we are now more prepared than last year.” According to him, the reception crisis caught the Cabinet by surprise last year because it did not expect the inflow of Ukrainian refugees – who are sheltered through municipalities, not the COA. “We did not see that war coming.”
The massive shortage of reception places is “alarming,” SP parliamentarian Jasper van Dijk said to Nieuwsuur. “It means that the State Secretary has a huge problem. Last year, we saw the misery of people sleeping on the floor at the application center in Ter Apel.” If nothing changes, that will happen again this summer, Van Dijk fears. “People on the floor again, children on chairs again, misery again. The government has a big problem.”
Van Dijk called the distribution law still struggling to get off the ground “by now an embarrassing display because the coalition is divided to the bone about asylum policy.”
State Secretary Van der Burg said he assumes municipalities will not wait for the distribution law to be enforced. However, the reason for the law is because municipalities wouldn’t create more shelter spaces on a voluntary basis.
According to VVD parliamentarian Ruben Brekelmans, the problem isn’t the number of reception spaces but the number of asylum seekers fleeing to the Netherlands. “We see again and again that we run into problems because the influx is so high. Now new shortages may arise in the reception, so that means the influx really needs to be reduced.”