Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Agency to spend €750 million on refugee housing, including boats –

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Refugee settlement agency COA is to spend €750 million over the next few years on developing new accommodation for refugees, including renting former cruise ships and other vessels to use temporarily. 

Some 60,000 refugees were in need of accommodation in the Netherlands on November 1, COA said and that will increase to 77,000 by January next year. Around half of them currently live in temporary accommodation, such as ships, hotels and sports halls. 

Ships make an ideal location because they contain a large number of beds, are easy to lease and only need a jetty to anchor at. “We would rather invest on land but no locations are being made available,” the agency said.  

Legislation that would have required all 342 local authorities in the Netherlands to take their fair share of refugees has not yet been passed in the upper house of parliament, but that would provide a solution, COA says. And councils will be given extra money to cover the costs. 

In addition, some 16,000 refugees who have been given a residency permit are currently waiting to be allocated a regular house, and they are taking beds in refugee centres which should be reserved for new arrivals. 

Two former cruise ships are currently being used to house a total of 3,000 refugees, one in Rotterdam and one in Amsterdam. Several river cruisers have also been converted into refugee accommodation. 

COA chairman Milo Schoenmaker told Trouw on Monday that locals can be more supportive of using boats than other types of accommodation because “ships sail away at some point”. 

The most important thing, he said, is that people do not have to sleep outside. “And we have managed to ensure that this year,” he told the paper. 

Two larger barges with container units, the Bibby Renaissance and Bibby Progress, will be used to house 1,000 refugees in Zandaam towards the end of this year. Both have been rented for a period of five years, COA said last month. Both barges are normally used as temporary accommodation for marine projects.

In Britain, use of a similar ship, the Bibby Stockholm, was delayed for a time after legionella bacteria was found in the water and it is still proving controversial. The Bibby Stockholm was previously used to house refugees in Rotterdam in 2005.

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