By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
AMSTERDAM (Worthy News) – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says he is ashamed about the treatment of asylum seekers in the Netherlands after a baby and a man died in an overcrowded migrant center while hundreds slept rough outside.
Authorities transferred hundreds of asylum-seekers away from a makeshift camp in the northeastern village of Ter Apel. Yet, questions remain regarding the future of migration in this small seafaring nation.
Leon Veldt, a spokesman for the government’s asylum-seeker accommodation organization, said Saturday that “the migrants were deported to alternative accommodations” elsewhere.
The move came after a team from the Inspectorate for Health Care, and Youth visited the squalid, temporary camp in the village of Ter Apel. They said there was “a serious risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases as a result of the total lack of hygiene.”
A day earlier, 150 people were transferred to sports halls in the central city of Apeldoorn to alleviate the crisis that has seen some 700 people sleeping outside the packed center in Ter Apel this week.
Many visibly stressed, tired people fleeing war, persecution, or poverty are ill, often suffering from eczema or other diseases. Often they traveled thousands of miles, walking or packed as cattle in overcrowded trucks or boats to reach what they hoped would be a more welcoming Western nation.
Refugee advocates compared the situation to overcrowded camps in Greece and Italy, often the first destinations of Europe-bound asylum-seekers.
A 3-month-old baby died this week in a sports hall at the Ter Apel center, but authorities pledged to investigate the cause of death after pressure from the European Union. Another man reportedly passed away from a heart attack, and others were hospitalized for heart issues or diabetes that had gone untreated for weeks.
The conditions were so bad that the Dutch branch of Doctors Without Borders sent a team there on Thursday, the relief agency’s first deployment in the Netherlands.
Prime Minister Rutte said Friday he was ashamed of the scenes in Ter Apel. He pledged several measures aimed at easing the country’s asylum-seeker accommodation crisis.
They include temporarily reining in refugee family reunions. Additionally, the number of arriving migrants earmarked for the Netherlands under a 2016 deal between the European Union and Turkey will be postponed.
The government said it also was working with local municipalities to create more homes for people who receive refugee status so they can move out of asylum-seeker centers, freeing up space for new arrivals.
Yet that has led to tensions after the state bought a hotel in the eastern village of Albergen without consulting the local population, prompting protests.
The Dutch military was tasked with setting up a new camp to house people who were waiting to register asylum claims at the Ter Apel center in scenes nearly resembling war zones.
But Milo Schoenmaker, the board chairman of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, welcomed the moves, saying: “With the measures that have been announced, the application center in Ter Apel can hopefully be relieved quickly. At the same time, there are still insufficient available places to accommodate everyone.”
While many Dutch towns and cities have offered places to stay to 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 ongoing civil war.
Far-right politicians have urged the Liberal-leaning government to halt the influx of asylum seekers. Still, Prime Minister Rutte maintains his small but prosperous country should remain open to “real refugees.”
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