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Streetview of the beginning of the street of Damrak in Amsterdam city center. Photo credit: Fons Heijnsbroek
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Confidential memo: Dutch asylum crisis continues with 10 000 homeless in January

The crisis surrounding the reception of asylum seekers will certainly not be resolved before the end of the year. There is expected to be a shortfall of at least 10 000 reception places by 1 January. This is according to the transition plan of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) seen by RTL News' political editor.

Published: October 18, 2022, 7:33 am

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    This is remarkable because the core of the refugee deal that state secretary Eric van der Burg (Asylum) signed with municipalities stipulates that on 1 January 2023, municipalities would no longer be responsible for crisis emergency reception, but that the COA would take over.

    Part of the problem is that many of the emergency shelters are only temporary. On January 1, many of those temporary leases expire. Therefore, according to forecasts, there were still 52 720 places at the beginning of October, but only 45 800 available places by January 1. A big drop, in other words. And since the expected occupancy on 1 January is at least 56 200, that would mean a shortage of over 10 000 places.

    Crisis emergency reception

    According to COA, the influx of migrants remains high. To stick to the deal, COA would have to have 51 000 places available by the end of this year. The documents seen by RTL News stated that this number would not be met.

    Therefore, crisis emergency accommodation will remain necessary even after January 1. According to the COA, there is not enough time left: “It is not realistic to assume that this will be realised in this short time.”

    That means municipalities will remain responsible for emergency asylum reception for longer than they had planned. “As long as the national reception capacity as a whole is not yet sufficient, there can be no question of reducing (crisis) emergency reception locations,” COA noted in the leaked report.

    Safe countries

    A potential sticking point in this confidential memo is also that COA stated that “no restrictions can apply to any country”. This is official language to inform municipalities that they must accommodate all asylum seekers, including those from so-called safe countries (applicants with no or little chance of asylum). This is a political nightmare for the mainstream, which could mean a loss of public support.

    In addition, COA is also facing a staff shortage. Currently, COA has 800 vacancies. This too jeopardises the objectives of the asylum deal.


    Lower House member Jasper van Dijk (SP) is dismayed that the asylum body is once again failing to honour agreements. “In August this plan was presented with much fanfare, and so now we see that there may be more than 10 000 places short. So the problems are definitely not stopping.”

    That may not have been so bad if the other deal that Van der Burg had struck with the municipalities had been honoured. Some 20 000 houses were supposed to have been provided for “status holders” – those with a residence permit who are entitled to a house. They now occupy places in overflowing asylum shelters with no other option but to stay put.

    COA figures showed that, since July, 7 730 permit holders have found a place in a municipality. And that is insufficient according to the COA: “At the rate of outflow since 1 July, the outflow of 20 000 permit holders is a long way off.”

    Political dynamite

    For Van Dijk at least, “the solution is very obvious”. He believes that asylum seekers should be distributed across the Netherlands. But this would undoubtedly be a huge boon to anti-immigration parties since they do not want the newcomers in their communities. He blamed the “unwillingness on the part of the cabinet”. The fact is that the cabinet would lose their power grip if they forged ahead with this plan.

    In fact, the cabinet has been wrangling for weeks over a new law that could force municipalities to take in asylum seekers. In doing so, the state secretary found his own party rallying against him, as the VVD does not want municipalities to be forced into an unpopular decision.

    A compromise therefore seems to be in the works whereby all municipalities must start accepting asylum seekers, and a system of rewards will apply to municipalities that take more than their quota.

    State Secretary Eric van der Burg (Asylum) acknowledged in a reaction that there would be a shortage in January. “Yes, we are currently thousands of reception places short for the start of the new year and it remains a crisis. With the security regions, we are working hard every day to make up for the shortages. The reality is that problems built up over years cannot be solved in months. Meanwhile, we make an urgent appeal to municipalities to make sufficient places available. We are offering municipalities support in every way possible in this regard and are putting everything in place in the coming months to work together to ensure sufficient places.”

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