National coordination meeting emphasises urgent need for additional reception capacity for asylum seekers
At the national coordination meeting on migration and integration (Landelijke Regietafel Migratie en Integratie, LRT) that took place on Tuesday, participants discussed an expansion of the number of regular reception spaces for asylum seekers. The asylum seekers' centres run by the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) are almost filled to capacity.
Following an earlier call to action issued by the LRT, the majority of provinces have consulted with municipal authorities to draw up a list of potential locations for new reception spaces. It was agreed that the King's Commissioners will join forces with the COA, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and Ankie Broekers-Knol (the Minister for Migration) to process this information and propose specific locations in each province where additional reception capacity can be realised in the short term.
The common goal is to have a clearer idea by early April. The objective is not just to create new asylum seekers' centres. It is equally important that municipal authorities move asylum permit holders (asylum seekers with a residence permit) into permanent accommodation to free up spaces in existing centres. This will also lead to additional reception capacity. The operation will be supervised by the provinces.
At the meeting, the LRT participants also expressed their appreciation for the efforts made by Leeuwarden and Goes to create temporary reception spaces for asylum seekers in multi-purpose venues. This buffer capacity is a solution for the short term.
Additional reception capacity needed
In addition to the need to renew contracts with 10 existing locations (due to the expiry of administrative agreements), another 5,000 beds must be added in regular reception centres in 2020. These are required for a number of reasons. Firstly, there will be a slight increase in the number of asylum seekers entering the country (compared to the forecast number). Secondly, the processing times at the IND have increased, as a result of which asylum seekers need to stay in reception centres for longer. On Tuesday, the Minister for Migration told the House of Representatives that she would take measures to reduce processing times. A third reason is the tight housing market.
The participants in the LRT are the Ministries of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Social Affairs and Employment and Justice and Security, Jetta Klijnsma on behalf of the King's Commissioners, Theo Weterings on behalf of the VNG, the Association of Provincial Authorities and the COA. When it transpired at the last meeting in October 2019 that the COA required additional regular reception capacity, the Minister for Migration asked the King's Commissioners to promote the realisation of reception spaces in their provinces. Since then, regional consultations have taken place in many provinces with a view to realising these new spaces. These efforts will continue unabated.