From file: Migrants camping outside the Ter Apel asylum center, waiting to get a hearing | Photo: Imago
From file: Migrants camping outside the Ter Apel asylum center, waiting to get a hearing | Photo: Imago

The Dutch capital has called in a huge cruise ship to house some 1,000 migrants as the Netherlands struggles to deal with overcrowding at migrant centers. The ship is expected to remain moored in Amsterdam for at least six months.

Amsterdam approved a plan on Tuesday (August 30) to temporarily accommodate at least 1,000 migrants on a cruise ship as the Netherlands grapples with an overcrowding crisis at its migrant centers.

Amsterdam's city council said in a statement that the huge ship will be docked in the city's industrial Westelijk Havengebied area from October 1 for at least six months, adding that it could house 1,500 people if needed. The ship will be moored so residents can exit and enter at all times and would be financed by the central government.

The announcement of the cruise ship plan comes days after aid groups warned of a humanitarian crisis at the Ter Apel migrant center in the northern Netherlands. A three-month-old baby died last week at the center and at least 700 asylum-seekers had to sleep outside in unsanitary conditions due to overcrowding.

Amsterdam city council said the cruise ship would "help resolve the worrying humanitarian situation at Ter Apel." Dutch authorities began to bus out asylum seekers from the migrant center over the weekend.

What is behind the Dutch overcrowding crisis?

Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday said he was ashamed of the situation at Ter Apel and that mistakes had been made, but pledged a "structural solution" to the problem.

Rutger Groot Wassink, the councillor responsible for social affairs and refugees, said the Netherlands must " solve the shortage of reception locations together so that refugees find a place." He called the cruise ship a temporary solution, adding that the Dutch government needs to work with municipalities to reform the country's asylum system.

The Netherlands is facing a nationwide housing shortage. Once asylum seekers are granted refugee status, many struggle to find accommodation and so remain in the refugee centers which were intended only as temporary accommodations for people awaiting decisions on their asylum application.

Amsterdam is the second Dutch city to host migrants on a cruise liner after the municipality of Velsen-Noord.

Dutch migration minister Eric van der Burg said temporary large-scale accommodation is "very important to restore calm to asylum accommodation." A cruise ship in Amsterdam marks an important step "in solving the crisis in the asylum chain," he added, though Dutch rights groups have described the plans as "absurd."

The overcrowding crisis in Dutch migrant centers has also been triggered largely by staff shortages after the government scaled down capacity during the coronavirus pandemic. 

With AFP and AP


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