The Netherlands has been experiencing an escalating asylum crisis for months, with some asylum seekers sleeping in chairs, and others being put in tents. This comes amid proposals to close the “asylum system”, tighten border controls and discuss sending refugees to the Caribbean islands or relying on a third country, as has happened in Britain and Denmark.
Over the past months, thousands of asylum seekers have arrived from several countries, most of them from Syria and Afghanistan, amid overcrowding in the shelters, which has disrupted asylum procedures in the country.
The past weeks have witnessed several hunger strikes in the shelters by refugees, most of whom are Syrians, due to the slow asylum procedures and long waiting periods in the shelters. Several refugees complained of poor service.
The asylum application center in the northern Dutch city of Ter Apel, the most crowded, has even set up tents to house asylum seekers temporarily, with hundreds of them being sent to temporary accommodation centers in gyms or previously unoccupied buildings.
Andrea Vonkeman, head of the UNHCR in the Netherlands, criticized the situation as “inhumane” at the Ter Abel application center. She said that the conditions were unacceptable for asylum seekers.
“The number of people arriving now is not much higher than before the COVID 19 outbreak,” she said. “The biggest problem is that they cannot move from asylum-seeker centers to temporary refugee shelters because there are not enough homes for those with residence permits.”
Vonkeman calls for the separation of asylum seekers who have a high chance of remaining in the Netherlands from those who do not. She noted that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) should also work on this. “The whole system needs to change,” she said.
More than 40,000 refugees have been granted asylum in permanent camps, exacerbating the crisis as municipalities refuse to provide them with housing.
Call to close asylum system
Meanwhile, Ruben Brekelmanns, a member of the Dutch parliament from the center-right VVD party, called for “action to reduce the flow of asylum seekers.
In order to curb the current asylum crisis, “border controls must be tightened,” Brekelman said. This would cover up to 20 kilometres in the Netherlands where anyone arriving can be arrested and returned to Belgium and Germany. We did it in 2015, now that we are in a national crisis situation, we also have to look at such actions.”
If the flow continues at the same level in the coming months, “we must be able to say: we will close our asylum system for a while.”
Proposal to implement the scenario of Denmark and Britain
Far-right parties continue to exert pressure to limit asylum seekers in the country. The head of the right-wing JA21 party has demanded that asylum seekers from safe countries be deported to the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands such as the islands of “Curacao, Aruba, and Sint Maarten”.
The party’s chairman, Jos Erdmann, made the proposal in line with the policy of Denmark and the United Kingdom. They want to transfer asylum procedures to Rwanda.
Based on the “coalition” agreement, the government intends to seek “migration partnerships with third countries” to control migration flows.
Besides the JA21 and the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV), the ruling party VVD is also in favour of agreements similar to the agreements made between Denmark, the United Kingdom and Rwanda.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.