It’s a rainy Thursday. At 10:50 pm the bus arrives at its destination “Ter Apel”. Out comes 15-year-old Raed Nour (his real name is known to the editors). He’s wearing a backpack and a raincoat. He puts on his headdress and runs towards the party tent at the registration center gate. He stops to catch his breath, and looks into the darkness at the sidewalk where another boy is walking and running towards him, cheering. The two boys hug each other. “We traveled together from Turkey and lost each other in Bosnia,” Nour says.
The two boys walk to the cabin to report to Ter Apel. “It’s already too late,” says the enforcement officer standing at the gate. “You have to go to the reception site across the street, tomorrow is another day.”
Nour is one of the last unaccompanied minor asylum seekers to arrive in Ter Apel on Thursday. On that day, between thirty and forty young people belonging to this group of asylum seekers arrived.
The situation is exciting
A day before Nour’s arrival, State Minister Erik van der Burgh (Asylum) spoke of a very large number of minor asylum seekers traveling alone who had recently reported to Ter Apel. At the same time, UNICEF sounded the alarm after indications that there were not enough beds for this group of asylum seekers at the registration centre. On the same day (Wednesday), there were already 330 minor asylum seekers traveling alone.
The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) described the situation in Ter Apel as tense, but it was able to provide everyone with a place to sleep last Thursday and Friday.
It was everywhere
We need to find urgent solutions to ensure people never have to sleep outside again, as they did last year. A sports hall there, a hotel here, Van der Burgh is happy when the municipality is ready to accommodate some people.
On Thursday evening, more than two dozen minor asylum seekers traveling alone will be transferred to other locations, COA spokesman says. 15-year-old Nour is not part of this transferred group, he told RTL News the next morning. He spent the night in a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Terre Apel.
On the same morning, dozens of asylum seekers were standing in front of the COA building waiting for buses that would take them to various asylum seeker centers spread across the country.
One goes to Zaandam, the other to Balk, they say in conversations with RTL News. There is a family being transported to Zeewolde.
Sayed, 43, waits with his wife and four children, all under the age of 10, for a truck that will take them to the asylum center in Drachten. He added: “This is the fourth time we have moved.” “We have been everywhere: in Assen, here in Ter Apel in several locations and now we are going to Drachten.” Syed says his family previously had to share shelter with two minor asylum seekers.
Cheaper for minors
“War or lack of future prospects are often reasons that push minors to leave their country of origin,” says Işık Kulu Glasgow, from the Scientific Research and Documentation Center (WODC). In a 2022 study, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) noted that the majority of this group of migrants are sent to Europe by their parents. This is due to purely economic considerations made by the parents, such as not having enough money to pay for the trip for another family member, the trip being cheaper for minors and the father often having to continue working to support the family he left behind. .
Nour, 15, has lived almost his entire life in a camp in northeastern Syria after losing his father during the war. He couldn’t go to school there, so he couldn’t read and write. “I only went to school until the second grade,” he says.
He chose Holland because he wanted to go to school for a better future. “I heard from a family member that the Netherlands takes good care of young people and has good schools.”
Front porch location
Fear of a lack of reception space is not limited to minor asylum seekers traveling alone. For other asylum seekers too. This has to do with the crowds in Ter Apel. The so-called “waiting room” in Ter Apel in Assen, where unregistered asylum seekers stay for a few days, is also full.
Thanks to some well-meaning municipalities, we were able to provide a bed for all the new arrivals last weekend and the first days of the week. Arnhem municipality provides space for 200 adult asylum seekers. They are housed on ships. “Thank you to the municipalities that took quick action and are still taking action. This latest action is urgently needed, because we will need many additional places in the near future,” says the COA.
On Tuesday, 300 asylum seekers were also transferred to a government building in Amsterdam-Zeidoost. It is the front gate site where asylum seekers who have not yet been registered stay. The site is available for a maximum of four weeks.
Last minute solutions, but how long can you keep them? It may not be long if there is no national solution to the shortage of reception places for asylum seekers. Because according to COA, more reception capacity will be needed in the near future.
The crowds at Ter Apel can be explained by the annual autumn peak. In May, it was reported that around 800 asylum seekers were arriving in the Netherlands every week. In recent weeks this has been more than a thousand per week. “Every year, the daily influx of asylum seekers is highest in September, but this year the number of people reporting daily in Ter Apel is higher than average,” State Minister Erik van der Burgh (Asylum) wrote last week in an urgent appeal to municipalities to provide Reception places for asylum seekers. The increasing number of minor asylum seekers traveling alone also plays a role in putting pressure on the registration center in Ter Apel. This group of asylum seekers needs special guidance.
Arriving safely in the Netherlands was all Noor sought. He now hopes to soon obtain a residence permit in the Netherlands so that he can reunite with his family. For now he wants to put the difficult journey behind him and rest for a while. “The moment I get here is the moment my life really begins. We did not live for this.”
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