AMSTERDAM (AFP): Hundreds of asylum-seekers have been evacuated from a crisis-hit migrant centre to shelters across the Netherlands after having slept there in the open for days, officials said on Saturday.
Aid organisations had warned of a looming humanitarian emergency at the Ter Apel centre near the northern city of Groningen, where more than 700 people have been sleeping rough outside the gates, many for almost three weeks.
The group of all-male asylum-seekers hoped to be processed and given shelter while their applications were under consideration.
“Several hundred people were taken by bus late last night to other reception locations across the country,” said Leon Veldt, spokesman for the Dutch government’s refugee organisation (COA) said Saturday.
“We hope to slowly normalise the situation at Ter Apel,” he told AFP.
The crisis came under the spotlight after the death at the centre of a three-month-old infant from unknown causes on Wednesday.
Dutch newspapers however reported Saturday that dozens of men remained behind at the centre, mainly out of fear of losing their places in the queue.
On Friday the Red Cross and the Dutch arm of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had warned of a looming medical and humanitarian emergency.
AFP correspondents on Friday saw hundreds of men on the ground under makeshift tarpaulins, close to a row of dirty portable toilets with no other facilities.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte admitted there were “shameful scenes at the centre” and that mistakes had been made, but he promised a “structural solution” to the problem.
The Dutch government late Friday announced a raft of measures to deal with the crisis at the country’s main migrant centre — blamed on staff shortages at COA and housing shortages in the Netherlands.
Many asylum-seekers whose applications have been approved were forced to remain in reception centres as there are no homes available on the Dutch market.
The new measures included temporarily suspending a migrant deal with Turkey to take on 1,000 asylum seekers per year and only bringing over families of successful applicants once housing outside reception centres have been found.
The Dutch government also promised to open more centres, including the military possibly making available a property, to use a boat in Arnhem with 200 beds and accommodation at the TU Delft University.