The Red Cross has re-opened its service point for refugees at Ter Apel amid ongoing chaos at the centre and calls for an asylum stop from local VVD councillors.
The service point was closed last week when fighting broke out at the overcrowded centre and the belongings of some Red Cross volunteers were allegedly stolen.
Ter Apel is the first port of call for refugees in the Netherlands, but a chronic lack of accommodation has led to people being shunted back and forth between facilities and having to sleep outside in makeshift shelters. This weekend some 300 people were forced to spend the night outside.
The Red Cross has operated a service point since the beginning of August to provide information, and practical help such as distributing toiletries and giving refugees an opportunity to charge their phones.
‘We have now changed the location of the cabin and we are working with a security firm so our staff can work safely,’ Red Cross spokeswoman Nicole van Batenburg told broadcaster NOS.
Van Batenburg described the situation around the centre as ‘tense’. ‘We could see things getting more heated. We see that more and more people are having to sleep outside and it is no wonder that has an effect on the atmosphere,’ she said.
In June the government declared a national crisis over the refugees, which was followed by a decision to force local councils to find space for refugees.
Last week junior justice minister Erik van der Burg used his ministerial power for the first time to grant a licence to convert a hotel in Tubbergen to an asylum seekers’ accommodation, after talks with the local community hit an impasse.
Resentment among local VVD politicians is growing about what they consider an infringement of the autonomy of local councils, with a number of them calling for freeze on new arrivals and measures to speed up the application process.
Joris Poffers, chair of the local VVD group in Dinkelland, which is adjacent to Tubbergen, called his party’s support for the move ‘useless and not worthy of a liberal party’ on Twitter. Since then, other VVD councillors across the country have joined in the protest, saying the move will contribute to ‘a loss of faith in democracy’.
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