Ombudsman: response to Ter Apel aid during crisis ‘improper and inappropriate’ | RTL News

Government agencies spoke ‘improperly and inappropriately’ during the crisis situation in Ter Apel in the summer of 2022. This is what the National Ombudsman says in the report Forbidden to provide assistance?. Offered aids were taken away from asylum seekers and citizens who offered assistance were prevented from being banned.

In the summer of 2022, the registration center of the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) was overcrowded. Hundreds of people need to wait and sleep outside in the grass without any aids. There was a lack of hygiene, drinking water, toilets, showers and protection and the weather was variable: from very hot to cold with showers.

‘Government failed’

Local residents and powerful people offered help to the asylum seekers because ‘the government fell short’, writes ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen. But tents, ponchos and garbage bags were distributed, were taken from the asylum seekers and were forbidden to be distributed to you.

This video shows how volunteers from the aid organization People for People distributed blankets, toothpaste and soap in Ter Apel:

There was a shortage of sleeping places in the registration center for months.

An emergency decree was imposed and people who came to help the asylum seekers were threatened with persecution. You can expect a government to ‘think along and work with citizens on a solution, instead of punishing citizens who offer help’, says Van Zutphen. According to him, too little attention was paid to the humanitarian needs of the waiting asylum seekers.

‘Specially permitted’

The fact that the situation had to be reduced was also recognized by those involved in whom Van Zutphen spoke. According to them, the focus was too much on safety and public order and the response to aid providers was ‘particularly guilty’, they now believe.

The government says it wants to learn from the situation, but that does not reassure the ombudsman, because ‘the chance that asylum seekers will have to sleep outside again is not always present’. He also sees that ‘virtually nothing has changed’ since his inevitable asylum reception last year.

Prevent recurrence

Van Zutphen therefore warns against recurrence now that ‘a new low point in asylum reception is emerging’, because the registration center is again overcrowded. “Everyone I speak to wants to prevent a repeat of the situation of two years ago in Ter Apel,” he says.

According to him, this requires solidarity from all Dutch municipal administrators. They must now ‘take up the gauntlet together, stand side by side and take their responsibility in the reception of asylum seekers’.

MiGreat, which distributed blankets and care products to people in Ter Apel during the crisis, also fears that things will go wrong again. One attempt tells RTL News that it hopes that the municipality sees the ombudsman’s report as a call to stop letting people sleep outside. “The powerful ones themselves don’t look back on it positively. That’s nice, but we still have to see whether they do something with it.”

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