Court orders Dutch government to improve conditions at asylum centres

All migrants must now have a 'safe, covered sleeping place, food, water and access to hygienic sanitary facilities'

Newly arrived asylum seekers on their way to the application centre in the Groningen village of Ter Apel, the Netherlands, in October 2021. EPA
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A Dutch court has ordered the government to improve conditions at overcrowded migration centres where asylum seekers have been staying in unsanitary conditions.

After a crisis this year in which hundreds of migrants were forced to sleep outdoors while their claims were processed, a legal case was brought by the Dutch Council for Refugees on human rights grounds.

"The State … has the obligation to receive asylum seekers in a dignified manner," a judge at The Hague District Court said.

Conditions at the Ter Apel centre near the northern city of Groningen, where more than 700 people spent weeks sleeping rough outside the gates and other locations this summer, "do not meet those standards in parts".

The ruling noted that people at the Ter Apel camp repeatedly "slept outside, or inside on the floor or on chairs and without sufficient hygienic sanitary facilities".

The head of the Dutch Council for Refugees, Frank Candel, said it was a "clear and necessary decision".

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But M Candel said the group "will not be happy until no asylum-seeker has to sleep in a tent, sports hall or hallway any more".

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers went to the centre this summer after a three-month old baby died there from unknown causes, and aid agencies warned of a looming humanitarian emergency.

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The court said the government now had to ensure that all people at migrant centres had a "safe, covered sleeping place, food, water and access to hygienic sanitary facilities."

"Some standards must be met immediately, others within the shortest possible reasonable time," the court said.

There was no immediate reaction from the Dutch government.

Updated: October 06, 2022, 10:21 PM