The group chairmen of the Westewolde Municipality met tonight for a special emergency meeting at the asylum seeker centre in Ter Apel. Mayor Jaap Velema calls the situation where asylum seekers have to sleep on the ground because there is no place left, unacceptable. He wants help from The Hague.
Last week, asylum seekers had to sleep on chairs and stretchers because the run was larger than the centre could handle.
Velema is very concerned about the situation. “Last week we were in the situation where 600 people ended up sleeping in the shelter. While there are usually 100 people who can stay, with a 250 spout, he says in Nieuwsuur. “In addition, 150 people were also sleeping in the IND offices and waiting rooms.”
The problem has arisen because the number of people who report to the center was very sudden. It makes for big crowds. “You enter, report to the IND and then go through the health check. Then you go to the night shelter, the next day you will be at the asylum seeker center. If such a process gets stuck because there are too many people coming or because it goes wrong, youll get a build-up in the night shelter.”
According to Velema, that is not only serious for the people being taken care of, but also for employees and security. “Its an unacceptable situation.”
The Hague points to COA
The COA says it will arrange thousands of extra spots, but it will not be until November. Mayor Velema has contacted The Hague for more help. He said they respond with “understanding” but then again with a reference to the COA. Secretary of State Broekers-Knol announced Tuesday that 3,000 spots will be added from November.
These asylum seekers tell Nieuwsuur that it is still very busy:
News Hour has asked Secretary of State Ankie Broekers-Knol of Asylum Affairs for clarification, but he refers to the COA again. “And they dont want to speak to us,” says political reporter Arjan Noorlander.
Broekers-Knol says again that 3000 spots will be added to several barracks from 1 November. “There is no guarantee,” Noorlander says. “Its a quest, also here in The Hague, to get out a little bit, because the whole asylum chain is stuck. There are people in the shelter for whom there are no homes in the Netherlands. There are people who have already heard that they have to leave the country, but who cant go or cant leave.”
Mayors are not jumping
Broekers-Knol hopes that municipalities elsewhere in the country help to accommodate asylum seekers. “But many mayors dont stand there to jump,” says Noorlander. “They know it leads to tensions and political hassles. So there is great restraint.”
From the Rhinemond region, among others, there are cautious sounds to jump in. “Rotterdam wants to make available a boat that was used for homeless care last year. Theres room for ninety people in that boat. Thats not the large numbers needed to solve this problem quickly,” says Noorlander.
Broekers-Knol speaks to the other regions tomorrow, but does not guarantee that they will actually help with the shelter.
Mayor Velema is not only concerned, but also “very, very angry” about the attitude of politics The Hague. Velema says they have to come up with a solution.
The replacement of tents, like a few years ago, he calls unacceptable. “Were not going to do that again. There will be no tents. We experienced that in 2015 and 2016. There was a certain benevolence in the Netherlands to make a thing with each other. And now they leave Ter Apel with it.”
Velema says that the asylum seekers who are now struggling to get a place to sleep will not be abandoned by the municipality of Westerwolde. “But this task is beyond Westerwolde.”
The mayor is concerned about what he describes as “a group of hooligans”. He refers to asylum seekers from countries that are considered safe and in principle do not have a chance to obtain a residence permit.
“They come from Algeria and Morocco and lead a roving life across Europe. They use this situation to see if they can get bed, bath and bread. And maybe asylum. Thats not what Ter Apel is meant to do and The Hague should help us to be a normal AZC again.”