Waiting for a house, seven months after evacuation from Kabul

The asylum seekers’ centers (AZCs) are overcrowded. At least a third of the people in an asylum seekers’ center are entitled to a house, but often have to wait many months for the key. That number is increasing: a year ago, almost 9000 ‘permit holders’ stayed in the asylum reception longer than intended. Now there are about 13,000.

One of those 13,000 waiting is Hamid Wali (31). Last August he was evacuated from Kabul because he was working there for the EU police mission. At the end of November he heard that he could build a future in The Hague together with his wife and 5-year-old son. But since then it’s been quiet. He does not receive a reply to e-mails to the municipality.

third asylum seekers’ center

Wali and his family have been living for months in a room with a bunk bed and a single bed. There is also a small table with a kettle and three chairs stacked on top of each other. They are in their third AZC, in Gilze. Within a few months last year, like all 2000 Afghan evacuees, they received a residence permit from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). It has stopped since then.

Municipalities are told every year how many status holders they have to provide housing. That often works. But now that so many new residence permits are being issued, municipalities are lagging behind. For example, The Hague must accommodate 417 status holders until 1 July; on March 1, the counter stood at 94.

The mayor of Tilburg Theo Weterings (VVD), who speaks on behalf of all mayors about asylum, knows the numbers and sees where the shoe pinches: the major shortage of housing association housing throughout the country. “License holders wait, but so do others.”

Ukrainians

State Secretary Van der Burg (VVD) consults weekly with the mayors and the Central Consultation for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) about the problems in the reception of refugees and asylum seekers. Municipalities have been instructed to arrange 50,000 beds for Ukrainian refugees. The COA also knocks on the door of the municipalities when the organization is looking for locations for people who have applied for asylum.

The cabinet has approved an emergency law that will allow mayors to expropriate (office) buildings if they need space for Ukrainians. To date, there is no emergency legislation for asylum seekers, although the mayors have asked for it.

Hotels

Van der Burg encourages the use of the Hotel and Accommodation Scheme (HAR). With this, status holders can already be placed in a hotel or holiday home in the municipality where they are going to live, in anticipation of the allocation of their house. The government pays for those hotel nights for six months. During that time, status holders can start to integrate in their new place of residence, for example by going to school or working.

The scheme has been in place since November, but has only been used in a few dozen cases since then.

According to the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG), this is because municipalities only dare to make use of this scheme if they are sure that there will also be a home for the status holder within six months. After that six months, the funding from the government will stop and the municipality will pay for the hotel costs itself.

School

Hamid Wali would find a hotel or a holiday home a nice interim solution, so that he can, for example, already orientate on a school for his son. That is not yet possible. The VNG says it is in the process of changing that, but adds that the arrival of the Ukrainians “has not yet dealt a blow” on the adjustment of the rules.

The municipality of The Hague has stated in a response that the national agreement is that COA will communicate with asylum seekers about their accommodation. And not the municipality where the asylum seeker ends up. The Hague cannot yet say when Hamid Wali’s family will be assigned their home.