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Massive influx of asylum seekers coming to the Netherlands20 May 2014, by Alexandra Gowling
The numbers of asylum seekers coming to the Netherlands has increased to 1.000 people a week, up from 1.000 a month at the start of the year.
According to Dutch State Secretary for Safety and Justice Fred Teeven, the number of refugees is alarming and measures need to be taken to cope with the massive influx.
If the situation remains the same, there will be 65.000 asylum seekers in the Netherlands at the end of the year.
Reasons for increase in asylum seekers
Speaking to Dutch television show Eén op één, Teeven said most of the asylum seekers come from Syria and Eritrea, arriving by train from southern Europe. While the massive increase in numbers is due in great part to upheavals in the asylum seekers' countries of origin, he also said that there was evidence of serious organised people smuggling.
"You can see that by the clothes that people have and the fact that their stories are aligned. Also, they all have the same amount of money with them," he explained.
Many asylum seekers come across the Mediterranean and land in Italy, which is struggling to cope. Italy said recently it might have to stop registering and finger printing asylum seekers because there are too many.
Teeven opposes this, calling it the failure of the European asylum system and something that needs to be resolved in a European context. If it went ahead with its threat, Italy would be in contravention of the Dublin Convention.
In order to control the massive spike in migration into the Netherlands, mobile surveillance has been stepped up in border areas in recent weeks, with hundreds of additional patrols.
Actual border controls cannot be tightened as the Netherlands is part of the Schengen area, signatories of which agrees to have open borders.
Teeven has also called people who work in logistics to be alert and report any suspicions of trafficking they have.
The Public Prosecution Service (Openbaar Ministerie) and the Dutch police and military police will investigate claims of organised people smuggling.
"This must be completely managed in a number of months," said Teeven. "These numbers are not manageable for the Netherlands."
Housing asylum seekers in the Netherlands
The surge in refugees has led to a huge shortage in places for them to stay. The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) is working to find new locations, as regular capacity will only cope with the numbers for another two months.
Three new centres have already opened since January, while two more will be open soon. The Dutch government is also considering using vacant barracks and even sports halls and empty schools.
In the worst case, if nothing changes, Teeven said it will become necessary to house asylum seekers in tent camps or abandoned prisons.
Criticism of Dutch treatment of asylum seekers
Even before these emergency responses have been put into place, the Dutch response to asylum seekers has drawn criticism.
A German judge recently decided an asylum seeker could not be returned to the Netherlands, where he had first applied for asylum and been rejected, as there was a risk of inhumane treatment.
The judge decreed that there was not sufficient evidence to ensure that asylum seekers in the Netherlands are equipped with basic necessities such as food and shelter.