“In Ter Apel, five times the number of children allowed have to sleep on chairs and there is no supervision”

At the Ter Apel Asylum Seekers Center, about 350 children without parents are currently cared for, while officially there is only room for 55 unaccompanied minors. About fifty of these young people are forced to stay in the waiting room of the Immigration Service on the site. There is no family there. Children spend the night on a chair. There is no routing, just security. They get food (microwave meals) and drinks, and they can go to the toilet, but there is no shower. Sources say so Norwegian Refugee CouncilFigures and circumstances are confirmed by the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA).

Emergency workers on the ground are very concerned about the well-being and safety of children. Unaccompanied minors are the most vulnerable category of refugees. At Ter Apel, these children are usually cared for in a separate location on the site, more or less separate from adult refugees. After submitting their asylum application, it is normal for them to be accommodated within a few days in special shelters for young people throughout the Netherlands. Those places are full. The IND is also struggling with a backlog. Seven supervisors present during the day for three hundred young people who are not in the waiting room of the IND, but are staying at the regular reception center at Ter Apel. At night there are two.

fire message

The Justice and Security Inspectorate and the Health Care and Youth Inspectorate concluded in June of this year the violation of children’s rights in Dutch refugee centers, and their safety is at stake. At the time, inspectors counted 170 unaccompanied minors during a visit to Ter Apel. So there are now double that number.

In a “fire letter” to Foreign Minister Eric van der Burgh (Asylum and Immigration, VVD), the inspectors wrote that COA personnel “have no room for individual attention”. “Room checks are no longer done frequently, deteriorating hygiene, and meals are no longer taken together as the dining room is not suitable for large group.” And the inspection departments wrote that the atmosphere is turbulent and there is inconvenience. “There is no good view of safety.” An employee now adds that children have been found barely eating for several days.

The COA sounded the alarm last year. At the end of October, the summit warned the Ministry of Justice and Security that safety and quality of life were under pressure in asylum seeker centers, that guidance was substandard and workloads were “unacceptably high”. Since then, pressure has increased in the asylum reception. Nearly one in three COA employees at Ter Apel are sick at home.

Read also: Despair grows in Ter Apel: ‘Go back. Waiting here makes no sense.

Within the application center, access for journalists is restricted. The problem is now apparent to the outside world in front of the overcrowded application center. The refugees are sleeping on the grass in front of the gate, which has been closed for weeks. This week was more than ever: seven hundred people. During the day, women and children are taken out of the group and housed in an emergency shelter. But at night, according to various sources, it is difficult to eliminate all unaccompanied minors from the group. Sometimes they also sleep outside at night. Hundreds of refugees were taken to emergency shelters on buses on Friday evening. The Health and Youth Welfare Inspectorate raised the alarm about the situation in the field in front of the application centre. According to the inspection body, there is a “high risk” of outbreaks of infectious diseases.

In total, more than ten thousand underage refugees reside in Dutch refugee centers. According to the inspections, in June there were 8,800 children and young people in families and 1,450 without fathers.

In April, Children’s Ombudsman Margaret Calverbur visited the unit at the Ter Apel site where this group resides. She concluded that the children were “mentally neglected”. At that time, there were 113 minors without parents. These young people need attention and connection, Calverbur told the NRC newspaper at the time. “They come from a state of acute stress. Then you completely neglect them. What do you think will happen next? You exacerbate their problems. The government is responsible for that.”

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