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Netherlands struggles with 'perfect storm' of housing & migration crisis

A group of Syrian refugee girls enjoy a swing ride in a yard at the former prison of Bijlmerbajes in Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 20, 2017.
A group of Syrian refugee girls enjoy a swing ride in a yard at the former prison of Bijlmerbajes in Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 20, 2017. Copyright Muhammed Muheisen/AP
Copyright Muhammed Muheisen/AP
By Vincenzo Genovese
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Dutch nationals are competing with migrants for social housing places due to a lack of options.

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A "perfect storm" of increases in asylum requests and a lack of affordable housing is causing migrants and Dutch nationals to effectively compete for places to live in the Netherlands.

A strong increase in asylum requests during 2022 led to the opening of some emergency reception centres across the country to help mitigate this crisis, but it has not helped to contain it. 

"There were no beds, so people were staying outside and then the Red Cross stepped in," Bastiaan van Blokland from the Dutch Red Cross told Euronews.

"And since then, we have become basically an integral part of the structure of refugees shelter.

"We run shelters now in coordination with the government to make sure that there's always a stable and permanent amount of beds for refugees."

At these centres, people get three meals per day and weekly pocket money of €12. Some of them have been waiting for more than a year for their asylum request to be assessed.

They can go out during the day and work for a maximum of 12 weeks per year, but many spend their days in the centre's recreation room.

Syrians are the most common among asylum seekers here and at a national level. Euronews spoke to Yara, who fled the civil war in her home country. She said that the situation is not easy.

"My husband and my kids are in Syria, and I didn't see them for nine months, which is so difficult for me," Yara said.

"And until now, I have to account for another year in order to see them. I hope it won’t be more than one year."

Those who eventually gain refugee status are entitled by law to private accommodation and reunification with their family. 

But the shortage of housing means that many people are kept on the waiting list and stuck at overcrowded reception centres.

Ships once used for luxury cruises are also now hosting hundreds of people in the port of Amsterdam, as they wait for answers to their asylum requests.

Indeed, the Dutch government tried to introduce different protection statuses in order to avoid granting every refugee the immediate right of family reunification. This is what ended up splitting opinions within the coalition which collapsed earlier this month. 

"There's a housing crisis - simply not enough affordable housing in this country, especially in the larger cities, but basically everywhere," Jeroen Doomernik, an associate professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam told Euronews.

"This means also that there's big competition between people who are eligible for social housing, the Dutch natives eligible for affordable social housing - there’s a competition between those needs and those of recognised refugees."

According to Doomernik, this kind of “perfect storm”, caused by inflation and environmental issues prevents new houses from being built and is also what created the tensions under which the Dutch government fell. 

He added that it is likely to influence the elections to be held on November 23.

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