Authorities transferred some 400 asylum-seekers away from a makeshift camp outside an overcrowded migrant reception center in the northeastern Netherlands after a damning report called the site where hundreds of people were sleeping rough a health hazard.
Leon Veldt, a spokesperson for the government’s asylum-seeker accommodation organization, said Saturday that the migrants were moved overnight to alternative accommodations in other locations.
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 and 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 two sports halls in a central city in a bid to alleviate the crisis that has seen some 700 people sleeping outside the packed center this week. Refugee advocates likened the situation to overcrowded camps in Greece and Italy, which are common first destinations of Europe-bound asylum-seekers.
A 3-month-old baby died this week in a sports hall at the Ter Apel center, and authorities are investigating the cause of death. Two men were taken to the hospital, one for a heart attack and another for 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.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Friday he was ashamed of the scenes in Ter Apel. On Friday night, Rutte’s government announced a raft of measures aimed at easing the country’s asylum-seeker accommodation crisis.
They include temporarily reining in refugee family reunions and the number of arriving migrants earmarked for the Netherlands under a 2016 deal between the European Union and Turkey.
The government said it also was working with local municipalities to create more homes for people who receive refugee status so they can more quickly move out of asylum-seeker centers, freeing up space for new arrivals.
The Dutch military was tasked with setting up a new camp to house people who are waiting to register asylum claims at the Ter Apel center.
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 grinding civil war.