Up to 400 asylum seekers had to spend the night outside the Ter Apel asylum seeker reception centre, the night after a heated parliamentary debate on plans to limit family reunification to reduce their numbers.
In a repeat of scenes from just two weeks ago, no sleeping arrangements had been made on Thursday night for many asylum seekers, reportedly forcing some 300 to 400 to brave the night’s rain and chilly weather.
NOS reported that after hours of standing outside in the rain, several dozen women and children were allowed into centre’s gates around 11pm. A short while later, it was announced that some 150 women and children could be taken in by the crisis emergency shelter in Stadskanaal.
‘The situation is bad right now, especially for people with children,’ 19-year-old Najibullah from Afghanistan told Dutch media. He didn’t know where he would spend the night.
‘Nobody listens to us, nobody cares about us,’ he said. ‘There are no places, there is no security or security guards.’
Although prohibited by authorities, some tents were eventually distributed to asylum seekers. Others sheltered in sleeping bags under a Red Cross vehicle. Aid organization MiGreat, together with Stadskerk Emmen (Free Baptist Church Emmen), distributed food and ponchos at the application centre.
‘We are very concerned about the conditions in which people had to get through the night,’ MiGreat founder and chair Roos Ykema told Nu.nl. ‘It is impossible that the COA (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers) does not arrange shelter places when rain is forecast, and does not have a rain plan or emergency solution for the people outside.’
Ter Apel is the first port of call for asylum seekers to register their claims and stay temporarily in accommodation for 2,000. But during the pandemic, other refugee centres, where they would normally then move, closed. This, combined with the national housing shortage, has meant Ter Apel has run out of space.
A former military barracks in Zoutkamp is expected to open later this month to take in hundreds of asylum seekers and relieve the pressure on Ter Apel, and a cruise ship for 1,000 is being provided in Amsterdam.
New government plans to restrict entry temporarily are expected to lead to 5,800 fewer family members joining asylum seekers in the next year.
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