Within our current society, information and news manage their way to us 24/7. As students, keeping up with all the background information is important, but it can be hard, especially during a summer holiday. Therefore, I hereby hand you a short overview of some important background information about Dutch news you might have missed this summer.
News 1: Refugee Crisis in Ter Apel
For the first time in history, the organization ‘Artsen zonder grenzen’ translated as ‘Doctors without boundaries’ delivered their help in The Netherlands. A big deal, since this non-governmental help organization only delivers medical help to actual crisis situations. How did the refugee crisis in The Netherlands, especially Ter Apel, come so far that help from the organization was needed?
In Ter Apel, hundreds of people have been forced to sleep outside for weeks because there is no room in the registration centre. The problems at the application centre in Ter Apel started in October last year, when the migration flow to the Netherlands started again after the outbreak of Covid-19. At the asylum seekers’ centre, you find the registration centre of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND), where most asylum seekers would go before they are accommodated at another location. However, the asylum seekers’ centre became overcrowded in no time and has been unable to meet the basic conditions for asylum reception since October 2021.
For months, the government was battling the ‘asylum crisis’ or ‘refugee crisis’ and several local VVD members (a right-winged conservative party in The Netherlands, also the current biggest part) have argued in recent weeks for an asylum stop, because too many refugees would come to the Netherlands. Although the influx is high compared to previous years, the Netherlands has seen much larger refugee flows in recent decades. The fact that the asylum system is currently clogged has little to do with the huge influx of refugees.
Therefore, the problems in Ter Apel must be bigger than this. One of the main reasons that the situation in Ter Apel could get so out of hand is the fact that many asylum seekers’ centres had to close their doors since the European refugee crisis of 2015-2016. This trend was then continued after the coronavirus outbreak in the Netherlands, as fewer and fewer refugees came to the Netherlands. It is therefore not surprising that the asylum system comes to a standstill at the moment when more refugees come to the Netherlands.
Another important reason for the problems in Ter Apel is the housing shortage. Due to the shortage of affordable housing in the Netherlands, many status holders cannot move on to housing and are forced to stay in asylum seekers’ centres. As a result, no places are available for new refugees.
Perhaps the main reason for the failing asylum system is the government’s unwillingness to really tackle the problem. For example, Chris Aalberts, lecturer and researcher in political communication at Erasmus University, states that the asylum crisis is in fact a policy crisis, because the government refuses to arrange reception for asylum seekers. That was quite different earlier this year when thousands of Ukrainian war refugees came to the Netherlands. In no time, the cabinet, in collaboration with municipalities and the Security Council, ensured that thousands of shelters were created for Ukrainians. Although 96 percent of these shelters are now occupied, the remaining 4 percent is still reserved for Ukrainian refugees, because some municipalities want to receive Ukrainians exclusively. Refugees from, for example, African countries or the Middle East are certainly not welcome at the moment.
This together makes that the problems in Ter Apel and the inhuman circumstances are not mainly because of a refugee crisis, but because of a crisis in our policy.
News 2: No Trains?
Another big problem appearing in the news and that faced The Netherlands is the ongoing train strike. This is also part of a larger issue. The strike, in short, has to do with the salary and working conditions in the branch. The workload is also a point of attention. It is hardly possible to take normal leave, which means that employees sometimes have to work two out of three weekends, have less and less break time and often find themselves scheduled with night shifts until their retirement age.
The shortage of staff additionally puts pressure on social safety. There are fewer and fewer chief conductors and service employees to support and have eyes on the train and on the platforms.
The unions have been negotiating about new terms of employment for some time now. At the beginning of august. Since problems are still not solved, strikes are still going on.
News 3: The Crown-princess as a Student in Amsterdam
Then there was the news about our crown-princess. This September, Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange, started studying at the University of Amsterdam. Many speculations had been going on about whether she would join the student body in Amsterdam. Traditionally, the crown-princes and crown-princesses would have joined.
However, this summer the student body in Amsterdam came into disrepute. During a party, some important members of the body said misogynistic statements. After this had become a problem in the Dutch news, Amalia announced that she will not be joining this student body. Whether she will still join some kind of student association is still a question. By this decision, the crown-princess has broken two traditions already: choosing to study in Amsterdam instead of Leiden, and not joining the student body.
A break from traditions to start off this new academic year.