Child asylum seekers may soon have to sleep on the ground as shelters grow more crowded

If municipalities don’t quickly create more shelter space for unaccompanied child asylum seekers, children will soon have to sleep on chairs and the ground again at the asylum registration center in Ter Apel. Joeri Kapteijns of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and Tanno Klijn of the guardian organization Nidos issued this warning to the AD.

According to Kapteijns, the COA will shelter around 5,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers by the end of this year. “And we need to find another 2,500 places for this in the coming months. That amounts to 50 new locations, because we provide small-scale shelter for minors,” he told the newspaper.

The COA expects to already face a shortage of 200 beds by mid-March, partly because contracts for reception in hotels expire as hotels want to be available for tourists again. “Then children will soon have to spend the night again on a chair in the waiting room in Ter Apel,” Klijn of Nidos said to the newspaper.

Child asylum seekers whose application is approved and are awarded refugee status move out of COA shelters and into Nidos’s care. But the guardianship organization is also struggling to find places for them. According to Klijn, 145 children are currently on a waiting list for a more permanent home. And 20 more are added every month.

“I ask municipalities: come across the bridge with single-family homes or residential groups where we can accommodate four to 12 young refugees,” Klijn said.

Last year, the court ruled that the Netherlands must immediately improve the reception of unaccompanied child asylum seekers. The COA is no longer allowed to place them in emergency shelters, which usually consist of a stretcher in a gym hall or the like.

One of the court’s requirements was that no more than 55 unaccompanied children be housed at the Ter Apel registration center, as the center is only equipped to care for so many minors. Last week, 106 children were staying in Ter Apel, Kapteijns said.

But improving the care of these children is more challenging than that, responsible State Secretary Eric van der Burg (Asylum) previously acknowledged, saying that the Netherlands can’t live up to the court ruling. A law that will force municipalities to take in their fair share of asylum seekers and create more shelter space is still struggling to get off the ground.

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