The long-term crisis at Ter Apel registration center reached a new low point this week. The inspection once again sounded the alarm because of the substandard reception situation. The time has come and the Groningen municipalities have the feeling that they are on their own.
In het kort
- Aanmeldcentrum Ter Apel loopt opnieuw tegen grenzen aan.
- Inspecties en instanties signaleren onveilige situaties en slechte leefomstandigheden.
- Groningse gemeenten voelen zich in de steek gelaten.
- Voldoende opvangplekken vinden is lastiger geworden na de verkiezingsuitslag.
It has been overcrowded in Ter Apel for weeks. And not for the first time. At the beginning of this year, the ministry, COA and the municipality of Westerwolde agreed that there is room for a maximum of 2,000 people. This number would no longer be exceeded. “I keep my word,” said State Secretary Eric van der Burg.
He did not keep that promise. The waiting rooms in Ter Apel have been used more often than not as overnight accommodations for about three months now. The COA has been trying to get additional places for months, but little progress has been made.
The situation is now untenable. According to the inspection, the shelter is substandard. The GGD saw dirty toilets, overflowing trash cans and waste on the ground.
The authorities sounded the alarm more often. Also a month ago. But that did not lead to an improvement in Ter Apel. In fact, the situation has only gotten worse since then.
According to Van der Burg, there is only one solution: finding places. The dispersal law was supposed to help with this, but it has yet to be dealt with by the Senate. It remains to be seen whether this will ultimately happen.
Stretch out at municipalities
COA therefore has no choice but to keep calling around every day. Van der Burg again made an urgent appeal to the municipalities on Friday. He has before the end of this year 4,000 additional places necessary. Defense areas are also being looked at.
But everything depends on the cooperation of municipalities. Getting municipalities to this point was not an easy job, but it has not become easier since the elections. Mayors are now scratching their heads a few times, says a ministry spokesperson. And they cannot be obliged to offer places.
The surrounding municipalities have now run out of options. There is a feeling that the national crisis will be solved by Groningen. For example, Stadskanaal and the city of Groningen helped with a special crisis night shelter and extra places.
The northern municipalities have the feeling that the rest of the Netherlands thinks: figure it out, says a spokesperson for René Paas, King’s Commissioner in Groningen. They believe that it is now the turn of other municipalities, but their backs are against the wall. “They find it shocking that other municipalities look the other way.”
They also point to The Hague. For example, it was agreed that more registration centers such as Ter Apel would be established. But that still hasn’t worked. “All it takes is something to happen and Ter Apel will flood. We are now seeing this for the second time. That is why we say: State, keep your agreements and arrange one or more registration centers.”
Inflow remains high
But this also requires the cooperation of municipalities. In the meantime, thousands of status holders are still staying in the reception centers. Municipalities have the task of housing these people, but they are unable to do so. This is partly due to the large housing shortage. Here too, several urgent calls have not yet yielded major results.
Normally, the number of asylum seekers coming to the Netherlands decreases at the end of the year. But that is not the case now, which means Ter Apel can no longer breathe. In recent weeks, between 1,200 and 1,300 asylum seekers have reported per week. Last year it was an average of a thousand people per week.
This country needs courageous leaders
Although there are no people sleeping in the grass at the moment, for the municipality of Westerwolde the current situation feels like a “virtual lawn in the waiting rooms”. Mayor Jaap Velema says that there is a critical situation and that the municipality cannot ensure humane shelter.
Velema strongly appeals to municipalities and national politicians to stop watching. “This country needs courageous administrators. Courageous political leaders who say: ‘Whatever happens at the formation table, it is important that the country is organized in a decent manner.”
The post first appeared on www.nu.nl