The Dutch government needs to acquire 2,000 more asylum reception centers across the country just to cater for last year’s influx of new arrivals as contracts for temporary accommodation with private entities begin to lapse.
During a recent digital consultation between the Secretary of State for Security Eric van der Burg and the 25 mayors who sit on the Dutch Security Council, tens of thousands of asylum seekers in the country will soon be displaced should the government not find suitable accommodation.
“About 60,000 permanent places for asylum seekers are needed in the Netherlands, but structural shelter has not yet been arranged. It is, therefore, clear that emergency shelter is still unavoidable,” Council Chairman, Hubert Bruls revealed.
Dutch authorities are now under pressure to find alternative accommodation with a number of temporary taxpayer-funded fixes agreed last year expiring on April 1. Renewal agreements may be able to be reached with some private entities, but a number of temporary shelters including hotels and cruise ships will soon revert back to be used for their original purpose.
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The government, however, is still receiving high numbers of asylum applications each month, placing even more pressure on a system already crumbling. Although a 7.7 percent decrease on December, the Netherlands still received 2,991 asylum applications in January and currently has a huge backlog similar to that experienced during the migrant crisis of 2015.
“The longer asylum seekers have to wait for their procedure, the more reception places are needed,” said Martijn van der Linden, spokesman for the Dutch Council for Refugees, late last year.
“That the backlog is now almost a new record while the shelter is overcrowded is a crisis after a crisis,” he added.
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Government regulations for the rehousing of asylum seekers are too restrictive in the eyes of the local municipalities, which is making the procurement of alternative accommodation even more difficult. Strict rules in relation to education, medical care, and welfare are meaning that some local authorities are finding it impossible to relocate their share of asylum seekers into more permanent residence.
The inability to relocate new arrivals has led to significant overcrowding at the country’s largest asylum reception center in Ter Apel, a village in the Groningen province of the country which made headlines last year as hundreds were seen sleeping rough outside the center without adequate medical care of hygiene facilities.
“It seems to me that accommodations are really more important than having the right teacher in front of the class,” Bruls said last month. “Any accommodation is preferable to sleeping outside.”
The government is hopeful it can push back a number of expiring contracts to at least July 1 to give municipalities a little more leeway to find alternative accommodation, but critics believe this is simply kicking the can down the road, and with more applications being made every day, the asylum crisis in the country is a ticking time bomb.