Additional reception capacity for asylum seekers and accommodation for residence permit holders becoming increasingly urgent
Greater capacity is required for the reception of asylum seekers. The facilities of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Centraal Orgaan opvang asielzoekers, COA) are filling up and the number of asylum seekers with a residence permit who are waiting for accommodation is increasing all the time. The provincial and municipal government bodies are striving to increase capacity, although these efforts are 'currently not yielding sufficient returns'. This was the assessment given by Minister for Migration Ankie Broekers-Knol and Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren on Tuesday to the Queen’s Commissioner and the mayors while addressing the national coordination meeting on migration and integration (Landelijke Regietafel Migratie en Integratie, LRT).
To ensure sufficient capacity in the short term, the COA will devote extra attention to making use of more commercial properties such as hotels and holiday parks. Furthermore, the programme of requirements for reception centres will be re-evaluated, which will mean, for example, that extra capacity could become available during renovation work. Together with the Ministry of Justice and Security, the COA will make use of the lodger scheme to allow more residence permit holders to stay with guest families, which will be a good start to their integration and participation. A number of scenarios will also be formulated if these efforts prove insufficient in the short term. Furthermore, in collaboration with the security regions, the emergency reception centres can be used as a last resort provided this can be organised in compliance with the health measures set by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
Integration into municipalities
Extra efforts will also be made to accelerate the entry of asylum seekers with a residence permit into municipalities. These are people who have fled war or persecution and are seeking a safe haven in the Netherlands. We expect that 13,500 of these residence permit holders will require housing in the municipalities in the next half-year period (1 January to 31 June 2021), with the same number also expected in the subsequent half-year period. The increase in the accommodation target is partly due to the fact that the Immigration and Naturalisation Service is working through a backlog of over 15,000 asylum requests. In recent years, the half-year accommodation target has fluctuated between 5,500 (in the second half of 2019) and 23,000 (at the height of the refugee crisis).
Support measures for municipalities
These figures will be a substantial challenge for the municipalities, due in part to the shortage of available housing. For this reason, a set of support measures has been compiled that provides resources for reception, accommodation, naturalisation and integration. In the coming period, this set of measures will be further fleshed out by the ministries concerned, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and the Association of Provincial Authorities (IPO). It will then be incorporated into a comprehensive implementation agenda that will give all parties involved a clear and comprehensive strategy to tackle all of these problems.
In any event, efforts will be made in the short term to boost temporary accommodation via interim facilities or transitional housing, in collaboration with local and regional authorities. At the local level, municipalities, housing associations and tenants' organisations can make performance agreements relating to the expansion of housing stock, e.g. accommodation targets for specific target groups such as single-person households and larger families. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will facilitate this system of collaboration via performance agreements.
Furthermore, the ministry will investigate whether additional financial support can be given to municipalities that accommodate residence permit holders quickly. In such cases, the funds that are usually provided by the Ministry of Justice and Security to the COA to support asylum seekers with the right to residency could be provided to the municipalities instead. In addition to social housing, municipalities can also investigate the possibility of accommodating residence permit holders in converted office blocks, temporary housing or rented rooms.