Probe under way after baby dies at asylum centre in Netherlands

The Dutch authorities are probing a three-month-old baby’s death as asylum seekers face an accommodation crisis.

Dutch authorities are investigating a death of a three-month-old baby at a reception centre for asylum seekers in the Netherlands, highlighting the lack of adequate accommodation for refugees in the country, which has become a national crisis.

The Health and Youth Care Inspectorate said in a statement that the baby died on Wednesday morning in the sports hall of the reception centre for asylum seekers in Ter Apel village.

The baby’s name, gender and nationality have not been publicly released.

“A three-month-old baby died last night in the sports hall in Ter Apel. Like everyone, I am deeply shocked by this terrible event,” State Secretary Eric van der Burg said on Twitter.

Refugees wait outdoors on the damp ground at the main reception centre for asylum seekers, in Ter Apel, Netherlands August 17, 2022. More than a hundred people have spent nights outdoors, sleeping on the roadside with little or no access to shelter or food. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
Refugees wait outdoors at the centre for asylum seekers in Ter Apel [File: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters]

The situation in Ter Apel has turned into a national crisis, due to the lack of space at asylum centres and the inability of municipalities to provide shelter to refugees.

The Dutch Red Cross set up tents in the centre’s garden due to the lack of beds but removed them following a backlash.

Now many refugees, including women, children and the elderly, continue to sleep in the garden.

While the government was attempting to facilitate the transfer of a hotel purchased in the village of Albergen to the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) to accommodate 300 refugees, it faced protests from local residents.

Many Dutch lawmakers and the public are now demanding an urgent explanation from the officials after the shocking death of the baby.

‘Inhuman’ living conditions

The Dutch branch of MSF deployed in Ter Apel on Thursday – a first for the organisation usually giving medical assistance to those in need in war zones.

“As from today we are giving medical care in Ter Apel,” Doctors Without Borders diretor Judith Sargentini said.

“Living conditions there are inhuman and must be improved immediately,” she told the AFP news agency. “There are no showers and the toilets are dirty,” she said.

“We have reached a low point in our country,” added Groningen mayor Koen Schuiling, calling on other municipalities to open their doors and help alleviate overcrowding at Ter Apel.

Refugees wait outdoors on the damp ground at the main reception centre for asylum seekers, in Ter Apel, Netherlands August 17, 2022. More than a hundred people have spent nights outdoors, sleeping on the roadside with little or no access to shelter or food. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
More than 100 people have spent nights outdoors, sleeping on the roadside with little or no access to shelter or food [File: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters]