Government finds 15,000 places for refugees in empty buildings

A collection point for supplies and appeals for accommodation in Amsterdam. Photo:

Some 15,000 Ukrainian nationals and refugees can be put up in government buildings which are currently not being used, housing minister Hugo de Jonge said on Friday after the weekly cabinet meeting.

Former offices and prisons are among the buildings which can be transformed into accommodation and the cabinet has allocated €75 mn to fund the redevelopment work, the minister said.

The beds are in addition to the 50,000 places which local councils have been urged to come up with.

Junior justice minister Eric van der Burg said on Friday that around 17,000 Ukrainian nationals are known to have come to the Netherlands and that number is likely to increase. ‘Germany and other border countries tell us that people from Ukraine are continuing to arrive,’ Van der Burg said.

The government assumes 100,000 people from Ukraine may find their way to the Netherlands, and will stay for years if the war continues.

Double standards

Meanwhile, questions continue to be asked about the different reception given to Ukrainian nationals and refugees from other countries, such as Afghanistan and Syria.

Deputy prime minister Sigrid Kaag told reporters on Friday that the Netherlands has always backed a refugee system based on ‘care in the region’. ‘This is our region,’ she said.

The scale of the crisis in Ukraine is forcing officials to act quickly, she said. ‘Nevertheless, the shortage of beds in the regular asylum system remains a major cause for concern.’

Refugee settlement agency COA has for months being trying to boost the number of beds for refugees from outside Europe.

The situation will be made worse on April 1, when at least 13 local councils will end their contracts with the refugee settlement agency COA, slashing the number of available beds by 2,500. A further nine locations will close on May 1.

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