The Hague the Netherlands — Authorities have removed some 400 asylum seekers from a makeshift camp outside a crowded migrant reception center in the northeast of the Netherlands after a scathing report called the site where hundreds of people slept roughly a health hazard.
Leon Veldt, a spokesman for the government’s housing organization for asylum seekers, said on Saturday that the migrants were transferred overnight to alternative accommodations in other locations.
The move came after a team from the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate visited the squalid temporary camp in the village of Ter Apel and said there was “a serious risk of infectious disease outbreaks due to the total lack of hygiene”.
A day earlier, 150 people were transferred to two sports halls in a central city to alleviate the crisis that has seen some 700 people sleeping outside the crowded center this week. Refugee advocates compared the situation to overcrowded camps in Greece and Italy, which are common first destinations for asylum seekers in Europe.
A 3-month-old baby died this week in a sports hall near Ter Apel center and the authorities are investigating the cause of death. Two men were taken to hospital, one for a heart attack and another for diabetes that had gone untreated for weeks.
Conditions were so bad that the Dutch branch of Doctors Without Borders sent a team there on Thursday, the aid organization’s first deployment in the Netherlands.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday that he was ashamed of the scenes in Ter Apel. On Friday evening, the Rutte government announced a series of measures to alleviate the housing crisis of asylum seekers in the country.
They include temporarily curbing refugee family reunions and the number of arriving migrants destined for the Netherlands under a 2016 agreement between the European Union and Turkey.
The government also said it is working with local municipalities to create more homes for people granted refugee status so that they can get out of asylum seekers’ centers more quickly, freeing up space for newcomers.
The Dutch army was ordered to set up a new camp for people waiting to register asylum applications in the center of Ter Apel.
Milo Schoenmaker, chairman of the board of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, applauded the steps: “With the announced measures, the application center in Ter Apel can hopefully be relieved quickly. At the same time, there are still not enough places available to accommodate everyone.”
While many Dutch towns and cities have offered shelter to Ukrainians who have fled the war in their country, the reception for asylum seekers from other countries is scarce. Most of the people arriving in Ter Apel are Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war.
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