Dutch PM says he's ashamed migrants forced to sleep outside reception centre

Mark Rutte conceded that, despite the new measures, some people would remain sleeping outside at the weekend

Refugees wait outside at the main reception centre for asylum seekers in Ter Apel, the Netherlands. Reuters
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday that he is ashamed that hundreds of asylum seekers have been forced to sleep in the sweltering heat outside an overcrowded migrant reception centre.

His comments come as the government announced measures on Friday to ease the situation by providing more accommodation and temporarily restricting migration.

“It is terrible what is happening in Ter Apel,” Mr Rutte said, referring to the centre in the north-eastern village.

But, he added, “I think together we have found a way out of this problem”.

Among a series of measures announced by Mr Rutte’s four-party ruling coalition included temporarily reining in family reunions of migrants who have been granted refugee status, providing more housing for people whose asylum requests are honoured, and faster processing and repatriating of people from countries that are considered safe.

Part of the current crisis is that people who have been granted refugee status remain stuck in asylum seeker centres because they have no place to live amid a nationwide housing crisis.

The Netherlands will also temporarily stop accepting, for this year and in 2023, migrants who were supposed to be sent to the country as part of a European Union deal with Turkey in 2016 amid a bloc-wide migration crisis, said the minister in charge of migration and asylum, Eric van der Burg.

Authorities moved 150 migrants on Thursday night from the overcrowded Ter Apel centre to two sports halls in the central city of Apeldoorn, alleviating the suffering of people who have been camped in the open air.

The city said it had provided short-term accommodation to ease the crisis and that the asylum seekers would move after four days to another location.

Mr van der Burg said the Dutch military would help set up a location to house some people now sleeping outside in Ter Apel.

Hundreds of migrants have been sleeping outdoors in squalid conditions outside in Ter Apel because the asylum centre there is too full to house them.

The situation is so grim that Doctors Without Borders sent a team there on Thursday, the first time the agency has launched a mission in the Netherlands.

Mr Rutte conceded that, despite the new measures, some people seeking asylum would remain sleeping outside the Ter Apel complex at the weekend.

A three-month-old baby died at the centre this week and authorities are investigating the cause of death.

On Thursday, two men were taken to hospital, one for a heart attack and another for diabetes that had gone untreated for weeks.

“These are 700 people sleeping rough: no showers, very bad facilities, no health care,” Doctors Without Borders Netherlands director Judith Sargentini told the Associated Press about the situation at Ter Apel.

While many Dutch towns and cities have offered places for Ukrainians who fled the war in their country, the welcome has worn thin for asylum seekers from other countries.

Most people arriving in Ter Apel are Syrians fleeing their nation’s civil war.

Updated: August 26, 2022, 11:47 PM