Acute shortage of asylum reception spaces – government issues instructions

There is an acute shortage of asylum reception spaces in the Netherlands. An intermittent outflow and high inflow will leave the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) many reception spaces short in the coming months. To be able to continue to receive all those seeking protection in the Netherlands, the government is left with no other alternative than to issue instructions to three municipalities and one region to set up emergency reception centres. Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Ollongren and Minister for Migration Broekers-Knol confirmed this in an announcement today.

Minister for Migration Broekers-Knol:

‘Municipal and provincial authorities have worked incredibly hard of late to create additional reception spaces and the government is immensely grateful to them. But more are needed still. I appreciate the instruction is difficult to take for the receiving municipalities, but it truly is a measure of last resort to avoid the need for crisis shelters.’

International obligation

People fleeing violence and war are entitled to receive protection in the Netherlands. Under European and international law, the State of the Netherlands also has an obligation to provide accommodation and support to asylum seekers. More stringent measures are necessary to ensure the COA does not run out of reception spaces in the period ahead. The government cannot allow a situation that would leave asylum seekers sleeping in the streets. It therefore has no option but to instruct emergency reception centres to be set up at short notice in three municipalities and one region – the municipalities of Enschede, Gorinchem and Venray, and the region of Rotterdam. The sites concerned have a relatively large capacity and can be put to use at short notice. The intention is for the sites to be used for a period of three to six months. Meanwhile, the COA will begin converting a property in Alkmaar owned by the Central Government Real Estate Agency, so that asylum seekers can also be received at this site if the need arises.

Option of last resort

This is not the first time capacity issues in asylum reception centres have prompted the government to sound the alarm. There had already been frequent calls for help in past months. A colossal effort by municipal and provincial authorities resulted in the creation of approximately 8,500 additional spaces since the end of August, although many of those were at temporary sites. Continued pressure led the COA, the national coordination meeting on migration and integration (Landelijke Regietafel Migratie en Integratie, LRT) and the King's Commissioners to conclude last week that it would not be possible to meet the demand for additional reception spaces before the end of 2021. The instructions issued today are a measure of last resort to avoid the use of crisis shelters, such as sports halls adapted for a short-term stay. Asylum seekers would need to move to another site after one week, meaning they would be required to move several times over an extended period of time. This is undesirable from the viewpoint of municipalities, residents and asylum seekers alike, and offers no stability.

In the period ahead, the government will work with the municipalities, provinces and other parties involved to provide accommodation to asylum permit holders and create new regular reception capacity, with a view to a stable reception situation and a rapid closure of the emergency reception centres.