Situation of asylum seekers: Camp Moria in the Netherlands

The registration center for asylum seekers in Ter Apel is overwhelmed: people sleep outside, violence erupts. Politics is overwhelmed.

Gathering of people behind a barrier.

Registration center for asylum seekers in Ter Apel, Netherlands, on August 17, 2022 Photo: Piroschka van de Wouw/reuters

AMSTERDAM taz | 400 people each on Sunday and Monday, 700 on Tuesday and Wednesday night, and the trend is rising: the number of asylum seekers who spend the night outdoors due to a lack of dormitories in the Netherlands is increasing drastically.

Dramatic images are now emerging daily from the registration center in Ter Apel, a village in the north-east of the country, right on the German border: people holding out in tents in front of the complex, police officers clearing tents, tension resulting in conflicts between the asylum seekers discharged.

It was announced on Wednesday that a three-month-old baby died the night before in a sports hall near the center that is used as an emergency shelter. Nothing is known about the circumstances and the cause of death. Members of Parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, were shocked and demanded that Eric van der Burg, Minister for Migration, clarify the events as quickly as possible. Kati Piri, member of parliament for the opposition Social Democrats, criticized the fact that decent housing was still a long way off.

A representative of the Groningen region, where Ter Apel is located, called the situation “shameful” to Dutch TV broadcaster NOS and said all Dutch municipalities should be involved in housing the asylum seekers: “Here are 700 people at the gates who have to go somewhere.”

There is a lack of showers and clean toilets

The mayor of Groningen, Koen Schuiling, is asking the government in The Hague to find a solution this week: “A bed, a shower, something to eat. Most have a long journey behind them,” said Schuiling of the regional newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden.

On Thursday, the aid organization Doctors Without Borders deployed a team to the Netherlands for the first time

On Thursday, the aid organization Doctors Without Borders deployed a five-person team to the Netherlands for the first time. It is designed to provide medical and psychological help. During an inspection last Friday, representatives of the organization found that there was a lack of showers and clean toilets. Some could not have washed for a week.

They told the Dutch media that the conditions were reminiscent of the notorious Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. The TV broadcaster NOS quoted them as saying that among those sleeping outdoors were pregnant women, children and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Behind the crisis is not only a lack of student accommodation, but also a considerable backlog in the processing of applications by the immigration authority IND. In addition, there is the tense situation on the Dutch housing market: recognized asylum seekers are often not given an apartment and thus stay longer in the transitional homes.

The official reaction: tents are banned

The crisis in Ter Apel, as the only registration center in the country predestined for such a situation, has been dragging on for months. The Dutch Red Cross speaks from an “inhuman” situation for a long time. The organization is now pushing to find a solution quickly.

The official reactions have so far been limited to an emergency regulation from the responsible region of Groningen, which was issued on Wednesday. According to this, people who spend the night outside in front of the registration center are no longer allowed to use tents there. These could lead to “confusing and unsafe situations” because they block the view of the cameras installed for security reasons and the presence of several people in small tents poses a health risk. Tent pegs were also used as weapons in violent clashes between those waiting.

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