March 24, 2023

The Hague, Netherlands (AP) — Authorities have moved about 400 asylum seekers from a makeshift camp outside an overcrowded migrant reception center in the northeastern Netherlands after a scathing report said hundreds of people living on the streets pose health risks.

The migrants were moved overnight to alternative accommodation elsewhere, Leon Veldt, a spokesman for the government’s asylum seeker accommodation group, said Saturday.

Previously, a team from the Health Care and Youth Inspectorate visited the seedy makeshift camp in the village of Ter Apel and said there was “a serious risk of infectious disease outbreaks due to total unsanitary conditions”.

A day earlier, 150 people were moved to two gyms in the central city to ease the crisis of some 700 sleeping outside the crowded centre this week. Refugee advocates liken the situation to overcrowded refugee camps in Greece and Italy, a common destination of choice for asylum seekers in Europe.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the death of a 3-month-old baby in the gym at the Ter Apel Center this week. Two men were taken to hospital, one for a heart attack and the other for weeks of untreated diabetes.

Conditions were so dire that MSF Netherlands sent a team on Thursday, the first deployment of the aid agency in the Netherlands.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday he was ashamed On Friday night, the Rutte government announced a series of measures aimed at easing the crisis in the accommodation of asylum seekers in the country.

These include temporary restrictions on refugee family reunification and the designation of the number of migrants to the Netherlands under a 2016 agreement between the European Union and Turkey.

The government said it was also working with local municipalities to build more housing for people with refugee status so they could move out of asylum-seeker centres more quickly to make room for newcomers.

The Dutch military has been tasked with setting up a new camp to accommodate people waiting to register their asylum claims at the Ter Apel centre.

Welcoming the moves, Milo Schoenmaker, chairman of the board of the Central Agency for Receiving Asylum Seekers, said: “With the measures already announced, Ter Apel’s application centre is expected to ease quickly.” At the same time, there is still not enough room for everyone.”

While many Dutch towns provide accommodation for Ukrainians fleeing wars in their home country, the welcome to asylum seekers from other countries has become paltry. Most of those who arrived in Ter Apel were Syrians fleeing the bitter civil war in their country.


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