The main forms of accommodation provided to beneficiaries of international protection are:
- Reception centres;
- Temporary placements; and
Asylum seekers who are granted a residence permit are allowed to stay in the reception centre until COA has arranged housing facilities in cooperation with a municipality. The asylum seeker is obliged to make use of the offer of the COA in the sense that the right to reception facilities will end at the moment housing is offered.
The law does not state a maximum period for the stay of beneficiaries in reception centres. The aim of the Dutch government for 2018 is to have a maximum stay of 3.5 months in the reception centre after the granting of a residence permit.
On 25 February 2019, there were 4,543 beneficiaries of international protection residing in COA reception centres and awaiting housing, compared to 8,553 at the end of 2017.
The right to reception ends on the date that adequate housing – outside the reception centre – can be realised. The notion of “adequate housing” is assessed by the COA.
For the housing of beneficiaries, the COA takes into account four placement criteria, which are:
- Education, provided that the study is location-specific;
- Work, provided that the beneficiary can prove that he or she has a labour contract with a duration of minimal 6 months and for 20 hours of more per week;
- Medical and/or psychosocial indications, provided that the beneficiary can prove that the medical treatment can only be done by the current care provider, or that a customized home is necessary;
- The presence of first degree family in the Netherlands.
If one of these indications occur, the COA tries to place the beneficiary in a radius of 50km of the municipality concerned. If the COA does not take into account the aforementioned indications and the beneficiary refuses the house on justifiable grounds, then a new offer will be done.
A beneficiary can refuse an offer for placement. The COA will assess within 14 days whether the refusal is justifiable. If the COA is of the opinion that the accommodation is suitable and the refusal unjustified, then the beneficiary is awarded a 24 hour to reconsider its position and to accept the accommodation. If the beneficiary continues to refuse the housing, then COA does not provide for a new offer. As a consequence, the beneficiary is summoned to leave the centre and the benefits granted by COA are terminated.
Due to the high number of asylum applications in 2015, a shortage of places within the reception centre arose. It was therefore decided that beneficiaries who were awaiting housing could also temporarily stay at families and friends.
Two schemes have been terminated and one is still on-going:
- The so-called “self-care arrangement” (“Zelfzorgarrangement”) was terminated on 1 September of 2016.
- The so-called ‘Municipal Acceleration Package” (“Gemeentelijke Versnellingsarrangement”) which provided for a legal basis on which municipalities could deploy non-regular accommodation, e.g. a hotel for temporarily housing of beneficiaries until final placement in the municipalities was made possible, has terminated on 31 December 2018.
- The “accommodation for residence permit holders” scheme (“logeerregeling vergunninghouders”) was prolonged and, as of 1 February 2018, a new pilot ‘accommodation scheme’ (logeerregeling) came into effect. The goal of the new logeerregeling is not to avoid the shortage of places in reception centres but to assess whether staying with families and friends has a positive effect on the integration and participation of beneficiaries of protection in society. The pilot was completed in January 2019. COA is now evaluating the pilot and will decide whether to continue the “logeerregeling vergunninghouders” or not. As long as the evaluation has not been finalised, persons can still make use of the “logeerregeling vergunninghouders”.
What does the arrangement entail? Beneficiaries can make use of this arrangement on a voluntary basis. Unlike the previous logeerregeling vergunninghouders of 2017, the duration of participation to the arrangement is not limited to 3 months, but runs until the moment when housing becomes final. Another difference is that young adults (aged 18 to 21 years old) can also make use of the arrangement. To trigger the use of the arrangement, the COA cooperates with an organisation called TakecarebnbTakecarebnb. The COA informs beneficiaries about the possibility to stay with a host family, but beneficiaries themselves are responsible for registering with Takecarebnb. The task of Takecarebnb is to match a beneficiary with a host family. Takecarebnb screens host families in order to ensure that the beneficiary has the opportunity to integrate and to learn the Dutch during his or her stay. In exchange, the host family is financially compensated (25 euro per week).