The Ter Apel asylum center has been making headlines for weeks | Photo: Imago/AP
The Ter Apel asylum center has been making headlines for weeks | Photo: Imago/AP

Dutch authorities have opened a probe in the death of a baby at an overcrowded center for asylum seekers. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) meanwhile denounced the "inhuman" conditions at the facility.

The infant's death is the latest report to surface from the Ter Apel center in northern Netherlands, where long lines of people waiting to lodge their asylum requests have become notorious in recent weeks. According to a report on RTL news, the baby was three months of age. 

The Dutch Justice Department said in a statement that "little is known about the baby's death, but first aid given failed to reanimate the child."

"Youth Care and Justice Department inspectors are probing the infant's death, which happened at a sports hall used as an emergency shelter," the statement continued.

The government's Central Asylum Organization in the Netherlands (COA) meanwhile said that it was "deeply shocked about this awful event."

Read more: Refugee Council sues Netherlands government over reception crisis

'Inhuman' conditions

The Dutch branch of Doctors Without Borders MSF was deployed to Ter Apel on Thursday. This marked a first for the international organization, which usually is charged with giving emergency medical assistance to people in war zones.

Doctors Without Borders director Judith Sargentini said that "living conditions there are inhuman, and must be improved immediately."

"There are no showers and the toilets are dirty," she said.

Migrants have been camping out for nights to get a hearing at the Ter Apel asylum center | Photo: Imago
Migrants have been camping out for nights to get a hearing at the Ter Apel asylum center | Photo: Imago

Protests against asylum facility

On Wednesday (August 24), more than 700 people had to sleep rough outside the facility for a second straight night, according to local news reports. Staff at Ter Apel are reportedly battling to cope to process applicants.

Groningen mayor Koen Schuiling called on other municipalities to open their doors and help improve the overcrowding at Ter Apel. However, plans to give the asylum seekers accommodation elsewhere in the region have run into fierce resistance among locals, who have organized makeshift protests in recent weeks.

Residents of the small eastern town of Albergen, for example, have been demonstrating against plans to house up to 300 asylum seekers in a local hotel there. Residents say they had been given no say in the matter despite voicing objections that the town was too small for an influx of hundreds of asylum seekers.

Commenting on these developments, Groningen mayor Schuiling told reporters: "We have reached a low point in our country."

Read more: Netherlands urged to end ordeal for stateless child

No space for people

The current sentiments against asylum seekers, however, are likely unrelated to any xenophobic sentiments, as there's been no rise in the number of people coming to the Netherlands. Experts say that it rather resulted from a current housing shortage across the country.

Furthermore, the Dutch government has been scaling down its capacity to handle asylum seeker numbers, resulting in longer waits and queues; the numbers of applicants had taken a significant downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With nearly all COVID restrictions being lifted across Europe, many countries have been witnessing a rise in irregular entires as well as asylum applications.

Read more: German-Dutch border: Mould, pests discovered in migrant workers' accommodation



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