the Applied Sciences building, TU Delft
The emergency shelter will be located more than 200 meters behind this building of the Applied Sciences Faculty. (Photo: Lucas de Leeuw)

A temporary emergency shelter for 200 asylum seekers will be built in the southern part of the campus. “Delft is keen to help relieve the critical situation in Ter Apel.”

Lees in het Nederlands

The precise location of the Centraal Orgaan Asielzoekers (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, COA) shelter is as yet undecided. According to a municipal spokesperson, a ‘site inspection’ will show where gas, water and electricity connections are available. A website with questions and answers about the shelter (in Dutch) states that the location will be south of the Heertjeslaan. This road runs 200 metres behind the Faculty of Applied Sciences’ new building at Technopolis, the area of the campus designated for companies.

When the shelter, with its flexible living units and communal amenities, will open is as yet unknown. According to the municipal spokesperson, this depends on unpredictable factors such as when construction workers are available to erect the units. The COA is also searching for personnel to run the shelter. “We hope that the shelter can open soon as the situation is urgent.”

The national asylum application centre in Ter Apel has been full for weeks. Whether people will have a bed for the night is regularly up in the air. Asylum seekers had to spend the night on chairs in the waiting areas last week. Other municipalities do help occasionally, as Emmen did earlier this week.

‘We are pleased to make land available’

The Minister for Asylum and Migration Eric van der Burg has now issued ‘an urgent request’ to Delft, says the municipality. In April, the news broadcaster the NOS (in Dutch) said that Delft had not given any shelter to asylum seekers for 12 years. At the time, the municipality said that that was because ‘there was no suitable space’. Lennart Harpe, Delft’s Alderman for integration, now says that he wants to take his social responsibility. “Delft is keen to help find a solution for the critical situation in Ter Apel.” Mayor Marja van Bijsterveldt announced that the asylum seekers are ‘very welcome’ in Delft.

In her response she points to TU Delft’s efforts in finding a suitable location. Rector and Chair of TU Delft’s Executive Board Tim van der Hagen says that he is happy ‘to help in this urgent societal issue’. “We are pleased to make our land available.” Apart from making land available, Van der Hagen also plans to discuss ‘whether and how we can offer more help from our community’ with the COA.

It is not the first time that TU Delft is prepared to make space for the emergency shelter of asylum seekers. It also offered this in 2015 (in Dutch) when there was a huge lack of space for asylum seekers, in part caused by the war in Syria. TU Delft’s offer was not taken up at the time. Parts of Technopolis has been empty for years while awaiting the arrival of tech companies. This is one of the reasons that TU Delft does not want to have permanent student accommodation there. Temporary student accommodation is now being discussed.

The emergency shelter on campus will be for a period of five months. “This is what the COA requested. If they would wish to extend this period, we will have to review the situation with all the stakeholders,” said the spokesperson.