Almost five years ago, all municipalities received an emergency call from the then VVD State Secretary Dijkhoff. He asked them that night 750 beds available for asylum seekers who might otherwise have to sleep on the street.
In a week’s time, 4,000 asylum seekers arrived at the application center in Ter Apel and there was an urgent shortage of reception places. Far fewer asylum seekers are now applying, but the shortage of reception places is still not resolved.
In 2015, when the refugee crisis peaked, approximately 43,000 people applied for asylum in the Netherlands. The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) was unable to keep up with the increase with enough places. With supplications and sometimes with light coercion, municipalities were urged by the State Secretary to make available gyms, exhibition halls and empty offices in haste.
The first emergency location in Zeist opened the day after the call. Mayor Koos Janssen (CDA) can still remember it well. “I saw that e-mail coming in at 3 pm. I immediately started arranging the large sports hall here,” he says. “I thought: such a letter has never been written. We must obey that, for the sake of humanity.”
Fewer asylum seekers, yet full asylum seekers
What about the reception of asylum seekers at the moment? The figures have now changed: it now concerns about 500 asylum applications per week. Yet the reception centers are full again. There are now about 27,000 asylum seekers and status holders in the azc’s.
This is due to the long waiting times at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) to process asylum applications. Residents with a residence permit also find it difficult to move on. In addition, there has been a slight increase in the number of asylum seekers; at least 5000 extra places are now needed.