‘There is not even something as small as a booklet pen for single children in Ter Apel’

Removing reception tents in Ter Apel does not solve the problems with refugee shelter, says Kinderombudsvrouw Margrite Kalverboer in Nieuwsuur. Calverboer publicly rings the bell because she saw this week when visiting the asylum shelter in Ter Apel that children were “mentally neglected”. According to her, that has been known for months, but no one intervenes.

The pavilion tents at the asylum seeker center in Ter Apel were built to slightly improve the living conditions in the overcrowded emergency shelter. Today, Secretary of State Eric van der Burg (Asylum and Migration) announced that the tents will be demolished next Tuesday. From that moment on, according to him, there will also be no more than 2000 asylum seekers in Ter Apel.

It is still unclear where the people who are now in the tents will go on Tuesday. The COA says it doesnt know where these people can go. Mayor of Westerwolde Jaap Velema says he is not out of concern yet, and likes to see “that act is added to the word first”.

During a visit to the shelter for underage single refugees, Calverboer heard of the guidance that children are not waking up in the morning, “because there is nothing to do after all”. During her visit, she gave the children a pen and a writing book. “All those kids were so happy about that. The boys and girls said: at least now we can write down what we feel in our heads. There isnt even something that small.”

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According to Kalverboer, the single children have nothing to do with the said measures around the tents. “I believe the Secretary of State doesnt know what children Im talking about. Of course, the situation has to change for parents who come here with their children. But the kids Ive seen, they need to be heard within six days and thats not happening at the moment. The Immigration and Naturalization Service uses much more time for the procedure. As a result, the single children, who live in neat houses, sit there for far too long.”

Currently, according to Kalverboer, twice as many single children are now in the shelter as there should be. Two weeks ago, there were 250 children, while there is room for 50 children.

Kalverboer: “These children come to the Netherlands after a difficult trip. They may have come into contact with human trafficking or abuse. They live with huge fears about how things are going at home. Thats all in that head. If there is no distraction, if there is no one who even has time to ask how it goes, then you will only develop more problems. Up to and including psychiatric problems.”


The Kinderombudsvrouw says its been shocked that this has been the reality for months. “That this is normal. When I talk to a municipality, they say, this is nothing new. The ministry says: yes, we also think it is below standard. But they are the ones who have to fix it. Ill map it.”

According to her, it is important that the IND adheres to the time that stands for the procedure. “If that doesnt happen, you have to take care of education and, above all, attention. If no one talks to you, youre going crazy in the end.” In addition, it is important that municipalities cross the bridge, she thinks. “Municipalities: please include these children. Make sure there are spots.”