Country Report: Housing Last updated: 30/04/24


Dutch Council for Refugees Visit Website

As of 1 January 2024, 64,405 people in the Netherlands were entitled to access reception conditions.[1] Only half of them are staying at one of the 85 ‘regular’ reception centres by COA (32,667). The rest are hosted in one of the 156 emergency locations managed by COA (24,618) or other locations such as (crisis)management centres managed by a municipality (7,120). In 2023, as in 2021 and 2022, one third of the people entitled to receive reception by COA were beneficiaries of international protection (15,368). These figures do not include displaced people from Ukraine. It is important to note that not only newly arrived asylum seekers are staying at (crisis) emergency locations. Asylum seekers who are already staying in the Netherlands awaiting the (start of) their procedure and BIPs can be also placed at (crisis) emergency locations.

Twice a year the COA predicts the capacity it will need in the upcoming period. In October 2023, COA was expecting, for the beginning of 2024, to need to house 69,900 asylum seekers. In its report, the COA foresaw there would be a shortage of 15,000 places at the beginning of the year, a number that is expected to grow throughout the year,[2] as contracts with municipalities for reception centres are ending and many of them do not want to renew the contracts. At the end of 2024, a shortage of 53,000 places is expected by COA.

On 26 August 2022, the State Secretary announced several measures to address the reception crisis,[3] often referred to as the ‘asylum deal’. The most important measures are the prolonging of the time period of decision-making (WBV 2022/22), the suspension of family reunification, temporary cancellation of resettlement of refugees under the EU-Türkiye deal and the launch of the ‘Spreading law’ (Spreidingswet). In response to the reception crisis, on 8 November 2022 a legislative proposal aimed at distributing the number of reception places in the country was put forward.[4] The ‘Spreading law’ will ensure that the municipalities are also be responsible for providing sufficient reception places for asylum seekers (article 6 paragraph 1). On 10 October 2023, the Spreading Law was approved by the House of Representatives and on 23 January 2024 the Senate also approved the Law.[5] The Law entered into force on February 1, 2024.

The law outlines the following time structure. Once every two years before 1 February, the minister will announce in the capacity estimate how many reception places for asylum seekers will be needed in the following two years (Article 2 paragraph 1). These places are divided among the twelve provinces that will discuss with the municipalities how these places are divided. Before 1 September, the minister will decide on the basis of the reports from the provincial discussions what the minimum number of required reception places is for the next two years, which will be divided over the municipality designated in the decision (Article 5 paragraph 1). The financial system put in place is very difficult. Municipalities receive different amounts of compensations based on whether they offer accommodations before or after the minister announces the estimated capacity and on the number of years they provide the accommodation for.

The Dutch Council for Refugees’ initial response to the consultation identified the following issues in the bill:[6] (1) The distribution and reward system makes the law extremely complex and administratively cumbersome; (2) little to no attention is paid to the importance of buffer capacity and prevent downscaling reception capacity; (3) monitoring of the division of responsibility is insufficiently guaranteed; (4) a quality framework should be anchored in the law; (5) more attention should be paid to the realization of small-scale reception facilities; (6) the relationship with other laws and context is not sufficiently included, for example the relation with the reception regulations for displaced people from Ukraine  (7) attention should be paid to the long-term commitment with a parallel approach for the short term. Finally, the Council for Refugees argued that for the nearly 20,000 people who are currently staying in conditions that do not comply with the (international) rules that the Netherlands must adhere to, acute state emergency law or urgent legislation is required.

At the end of April 2023, the government published the number of asylum seekers they expected to come to the Netherlands for the remainder of 2023 and the shortages that would occur in asylum reception.[7] The following measures were proposed in that letter. The cabinet focused on a number of measures in the areas of (1) inflow, (2) progression, (3) reception, and (4) outflow and departure. This effort is aimed at:

  1. ‘Gaining control over asylum inflow through involvement in Europe;
  2. The government found a trend of granting more asylum applications in 2022 than before and more than by other EU-member states. Therefore, measures need to be implement for a fair, humane, and effective asylum policy. Realization of acceleration at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) to catch up on backlogs, and improvement of progression through an efficient identification and registration process;
  3. Organising sufficient reception capacity by focusing on governance, additional measures by the COA, realization of sustainable capacity in line with the Spreading Law; and support in other policy domains;
  4. Promotion of the outflow of beneficiaries of international protection by providing flexible housing to municipalities and the continuous encouragement of departure.’

Central Reception Centre (COL)

If an asylum seeker from a non-Schengen country has arrived in the Netherlands by plane or boat, the application for asylum must be lodged at the AC Schiphol, which is located at the Justitieel Centrum Schiphol (JCS).[8] The application centre Schiphol is a closed centre, which means that asylum seekers are not allowed to leave the centre (see Place of Detention). Asylum seekers are further not transferred to the POL after the application, as is the case for asylum seekers who entered the Netherlands by land and/or lodged their asylum application at the COL.[9]  Vulnerable asylum seekers such as children do not stay at JCS.

Asylum seekers who enter the Netherlands by land have to apply at the Central Reception Centre (Centraal Opvanglocatie, COL) in Ter Apel, where they stay for a maximum of three days. The COL is not designed for a long stay. In 2023, the location of Ter Apel reached its full capacity multiple times, resulting in asylum seekers sleeping in the waiting room of the IND without bed or shower and being sent all over the country – see A1. Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions. On 10 September 2022, the Ministry of Defence opened a special location at Marnewaard to house asylum seekers who are still going through the registration process in Ter Apel. This location, also called ‘the waiting room’ has a capacity of 600. Asylum seekers do not stay for longer than a week at Marnewaard. The location at Marnewaard was closed again on 1 March 2023.[10] But on 1 July 2023, a similar location opened again in Assen with a capacity of 500 beds.[11] Followed by other locations in Amsterdam and Leeuwarden.[12]

In 2019 and 2023, the RVA 2005 was altered in order to allow for a different reception regime for asylum seekers whose request is dealt with in Track 1 (Dublin) and Track 2 (‘safe country of origin’ and ‘international protection in another EU Member State’).[13] Article 9(7) excludes these asylum seekers from financial allowances, which means that they are only entitled to frozen microwave meals. Article 19(3) states that these asylum seekers have to report their presence daily. However, this only needs to be applied to asylum seekers who are staying at reception centres that are suited for this scheme, ‘austere’ reception centres (sobere opvang).[14] The austere reception aims to make the Netherlands less attractive for individuals with a low-prospect asylum application and also serves to alleviate the overload on the asylum system.[15] .

During the pilot period of 1 October 2020 up until 1 August 2021, 261 asylum seekers whose request was dealt within Track 2 stayed at an ‘austere’ reception centre.[16] This is a separate fenced building on the same site of normal reception centres in Ter Apel and Budel with extra security personnel that carries out room checks and checks upon entry and departure of the building. Asylum seekers also needed to stay in these facilities when they appealed the rejection of their asylum request.

After the pilot period asylum seekers whose request was dealt with in Track 2 were moved out of the fenced buildings in Ter Apel and Budel when their asylum request was dealt with by IND.[17] Vulnerable asylum seekers whose request is dealt with in Track 2 are exempted from staying at the fenced separate ‘austere’ reception building, but they receive an ‘austere’ regime at a normal reception centre. Both the asylum seekers staying at the separate ‘austere’ reception centres and the vulnerable ones have to report their presence daily, do not receive financial allowances and are given frozen microwave meals. Following the Council of State ruling on the risk of treatment in violation of Article 3 ECHR upon return to Greece for international protection beneficiaries,[18] regional courts decided that beneficiaries of protection from Greece could no longer be obligated to stay at the ‘austere’ reception centres since their applications are no longer chanceless.[19]

In July 2023, COA opened another ‘austere reception’ centre at Ter Apel, which is called the being-available-during-the-procedure-location (Procesbeschikbaarheidslocatie, PBL).[20] It has space for 50-100 asylum seekers and is aimed at asylum seekers who cause disturbances and have a low-prospect asylum application.[21] Apart from the exemptions in the RVA 2005 for asylum seekers whose request is dealt with in Track 1 or Track 2 that were discussed above, there are no public regulations as to who is supposed to be housed in the PBL.

Concerns on the restrictions of the Freedom of Movement and the lack of a specific legal basis for these austere reception regimes have been raised by legal experts from the Dutch Council for Refugees.[22]


Emergency locations (Noodopvang)

Emergency locations are temporary locations, managed by COA. Locations differ from sport and event halls, boats, cruise ships, pavilions, hotels, former schools former office buildings and in former COVID-19 test locations. Many of these locations house more than 500 people. For example, in 2022, two cruiseships in Amsterdam and Velsen both housed over 1000 people. The ship in Velsen was moved to Rotterdam in July 2023, the cruiseship in Amsterdam remains at the same location.[23] The reception capacity of both ships was increased from 1,000 to 1,500 people.[24]

In 2021, Afghan evacuees were located on sites provided by the Ministry of Defence, as many of the evacuees were its former employees. One of these was a large camp with tents in the woods close to Nijmegen called Heumensoord, hosting 1,000 people. This location was used during the 2015 reception crisis and was often criticized. The National Ombudsperson and the Human Rights Committee went to visit Heumensoord in September 2021 as a follow-up to their 2016 visit. These parties recommended the government to close down Heumensoord as soon as possible, most importantly before winter, since the camp was not deemed good for the safety and (mental) health of the residents.[25] The State Secretary finally moved Afghan evacuees still living in tents at Heumensoord to another site at the end of January 2022 placing them in other emergency locations. At another site where which Afghan evacuees were located (Harskamp), the residents of the village started protests against their arrival on 24 August 2021. Initially quite peaceful and counting only 250 demonstrators, the protest became much more violent in the night, when the few participants left set fire to car tires.[26] The protest was ended by the police that same evening. The reception centre in Harskamp was open for 100 days, after which it was closed to resume its original function as a military training location.[27] Since March 2022 the Harskamp location has been used for reception of displaced persons from Ukraine, with no known protests from the village residents.[28]

Regarding living conditions, see Conditions in (crisis)emergency locations.


Crisis Emergency Locations (Crisisnoodopvang, CNO)

The first Crisis Emergency Locations opened in May 2022. Crisis Emergency Locations are managed by municipalities or Security Regions (Veiligheidsregio’s), they are even more temporary than emergency locations and may sometimes only house people for up to 2-3 days. This means that people have to move from place to place.

The COA provided a guide for municipalities on managing CNOs.[29] This guide states that very vulnerable people such as pregnant women, babies and elderly people should not be placed in CNOs – however, vulnerable people are still placed at these locations. A report from the Dutch Council of Refugees, for which 22 (crisis)emergency locations were visited, concluded that on 17 locations vulnerable people whose (medical) needs could not be taken care of were present.[30] This concerns individuals with severe physical or mental conditions, chronically ill individuals, and pregnant women. A particularly distressing case involves a man with cancer undergoing chemotherapy while staying in a (crisis) shelter in an event hall.


Process Reception Centres (POL)

After this stay at the COL, the asylum seeker would normally be transferred to a Process Reception Centre (Proces Opvanglocatie, POL). However, this is not always the case since the start of the reception crisis. Asylum seekers can stay at all kind of locations during their asylum procedure, they might even be interviewed at the reception centre.

At the POL, the asylum seeker will take the next steps of the rest and preparation period and awaits the official asylum application at the application centre. As soon as the asylum seeker has officially lodged an asylum application, they receive a certificate of legal stay. Due to lack of capacity in the POL, the so-called pre-POLs have been opened. Often these are located at the site of an AZC, but the people staying at the pre-POL will have the same (limited) facilities as asylum seekers at the POL, so they will have different access to medical care and language lessons, and no weekly allowance. The Dutch Council for Refugees reported that the excessive waiting time in the rest and preparation period (up to two years) has serious consequences regarding the material reception conditions and mental health of asylum seekers. Among them, limited access to medical care, tension in the centres due to serious concerns about family reunification and a lack of facilities since the (pre-)POL is not designed for a long stay.[31] Additionally, The Dutch Council for Refugees and the Ombudsperson fear a set-back in integration possibilities for applicants since there is no or limited possibility to perform volunteer work or get access to language education.[32]


Centres for Asylum Seekers (AZC)

An asylum seeker remains in the POL if the IND decides to examine the asylum application in the Regular Procedure procedure (within eight days). If protection is granted, the asylum seeker is transferred to a Centre for Asylum Seekers (Asielzoekerscentrum, AZC) before receiving housing in the Netherlands. If the IND decides, usually after four days, to handle the application in the extended asylum procedure, the asylum seeker will also be transferred from the POL to an AZC.

As discussed above, many beneficiaries of international protection are staying at AZCs: for more information on the housing backlog for BIPs, see Content of International Protection: Housing).[33]

The COA continuously requests municipalities to provide more AZCs that are available for long term.[34]


Enforcement and Supervision Location (HTL)

The Enforcement and Supervision Location (Handhaving en Toezichtlocatie, HTL) was set up as a special reception centre for asylum seekers who have caused tension or any form of nuisance at an AZC, for example by bullying other inhabitants, destroying materials, exhibiting aggressive behaviour or violating the COA house rules. Minors aged 16 or more can also be transferred to these locations.[35]

One HTL in Hoogeveen, opened in December 2017 as an Extra Guidance and Supervision location (Extra Begeleiding- en Toezichtlocatie, EBTL) and became an HTL in February 2020. The location has a capacity of 50 places.[36]

The Inspection of the Ministry of Justice and Security concluded in 2018 that the EBTL had not been effective in changing the behaviour of violent applicants. This is partly due to the fact that these applicants often have mental disorders and psychiatric problems. As a result, the EBTL was closed and the HTL was opened.[37] The difference between the EBTL and the HTL is that the HTL objective is no longer to change the behaviour of the applicant. Applicants placed in the HTL will get a stringent area ban and a compulsory day programme.

The number of people placed in the EBTL and the HTL over the last few years were as follows:[38]

Year Number of persons placed
2019 250
2020 210
2021 210
2022 220
2023 Not yet available


Asylum seekers staying at the HTL are only allowed to go outside for four hours a day, where they cannot leave a small grass field. Several lawyers have argued that asylum seekers are illegally deprived of their liberty in the HTL.[39] However, the Regional Court of Groningen conducted an on-site investigation and concluded that placement in the HTL is not contrary to Article 5 ECHR.[40] This was mostly due to the possibility to leave the HTL, even though leaving means that one loses their right to reception.

In August 2022, the Inspection Department of the Ministry of Justice and Security paid an unannounced visit to the HTL following the report of a ‘whistleblower’ who notified eight incidents in the twenty days that he worked at the HTL. During this visit, employees and asylum seekers were interviewed. Observations were also made and supervision plans were examined in the information system of COA. Finally, the Inspection requested documentation and camera images. The findings are alarming.[41] The Inspection established that housing supervisors, who work for the COA and the DJI, use coercion and violence. For example, housing supervisors pushed, slapped or kicked asylum seekers and made unauthorized use of handcuffs.

In his response, the State Secretary indicated not having recognised any pattern of disproportionate violence in the HTL. According to the State Secretary, these cases were isolated and COA always investigates thoroughly when this happens. However, the daily programme will be examined.[42]


Administrative placing and hosting arrangement

Administrative placement makes it possible for asylum seekers to live with (first-degree) relatives while receiving allowances and health insurance. Previously, the administrative placement was regulated in Article 13 Rva (old), but this basis has disappeared. However, practice shows that it is still possible in exceptional cases to be placed administratively at the nearest AZC from the place of residence of the family member. The asylum seeker must report to the AZC on a weekly basis. According to the COA’s Provisions Policy, an income check is carried out during administrative placement. If the family member earns too much, the asylum seeker will not receive allowances. Administrative placement of an asylum seeker who is still in the pre-pol is not yet possible. VWN has often pointed out that this practice could be expanded, because more and more people are requesting it and it could be a way to make up space for new asylum seekers.[43]

BIPs staying at a reception centre while waiting to be housed, can stay at a host family for up to three months using the ‘hosting arrangement’ (logeerregeling). The organisation Takecarebnb connects and guides host families and BIPs.[44]

At the end of 2023, the hosting arrangement was also extended to asylum seekers.[45] Their application needs to be dealt with in Track 4 and they need to be 18 years or older. Asylum seekers using the hosting arrangement receive an extra financial allowance of 25 euros a week if they are between 18 and 21 years old. The COA has temporarily increased this extra allowance for asylum seekers using the hosting arrangement who are older than 21 to  75 euros. The hosting arrangement is in principle for three months. As the arrangement has only been introduced at the end of 2023, there is no information yet on the success of it.

In a debate in parliament on 19 October 2022 the State Secretary stated that 1,000 people were using either the administrative placing or the hosting arrangement in 2022.[46]




[1] Numbers available at https://www.coa.nl, accessed at 9 January 2023.

[2] COA Website: https://www.coa.nl/nl/lijst/capaciteit-en-bezetting, figures are updated monthly.

[3] KST 19637, no. 2992, Letter of the Ministry of Justice and Securty on decision-making concerning the reception crisis, 26 August 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3ikz3JP.

[4] Concept Bill and explanatory memorandum, 8 November 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3CzSjtz.

[5] See overview of the consideration of the bill the website of the Senate, available in Dutch: https://bit.ly/3SibK2h.

[6] VWN, ‘Response to Internetconsultation on Spreading Law’, 23 November 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3VZOgh4.

[7] KST, 19637, nr. 3100, 28 April 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/421cvjj.

[8] Article 3(3) Aliens Act.

[9] Asylum seekers who are not stopped at an international border of the Netherlands and want to make an asylum application have to go to the COL in Ter Apel, even if they initially came by plane or boat.

[10] RTV Noord, ‘Noodopvang locatie Marnewaard bij Zoutkamp sluit zoals gepland in maart’, 2 February 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3RXcfNR.

[11] NOS, ‘Evenementenhal in Assen wordt ‘wachtkamer’ voor aanmeldcentrum Ter Apel’, 24 May 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/4217KGv.

[12] Parool, ‘Amsterdam-Zuidoost opent extra opvangplek voor asielzoekers wegens druk op Ter Apel’, 20 September 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3HhJbvJ; Omrop Fryslân, ‘Opnieuw vluchtelingen opgevangen in WTC in Leeuwarden’, 2 October 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/421aeEP.

[13] Strct 2020, 48688, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3vEwHeX; and Strct 2023, 26411, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3O3Jk9C

[14] Strct 2023, 26411, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3O3Jk9C.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Rijnconsult, Evaluation of the pilot ‘austere reception’ Track 2, 13 September 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3vqKsOE, 18.

[17] See COA website, https://bit.ly/3Sj9w2J.

[18] Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:1626 and ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:1627, 28 July 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/4btJzoD.

[19] E.g. Regional Court Haarlem, 18 August 2021, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2021:9028, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/4btTPgH.

[20] KST 19637, nr. 3110, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3S6Ttns.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Anna Chatelion Counet, Sofia D’Arcio and Lianne Hooijmans, Tien juristen, elf meningen?, JNVR 2023-4, p. 17 and further on austere reception centres.

[23] COA, ‘Ferry Silja Europa vaart 1 juli van Velsen naar Rotterdam’, 1 July 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/48ufB1J; COA, ‘Amsterdam Westerhoofd’, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/4aULYsj.

[24] COA, ‘Ferry Silja Europa vaart 1 juli van Velsen naar Rotterdam’, 1 July 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/48ufB1J; NOS, ‘Amsterdam wil opvang asielzoekers op cruiseship met half jaar verlengen’, 3 February 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3vsHI30.

[25] National Ombudsperson, ‘Close emergency location Heumensoord and fix other accommodation for Afghan evacuees’, 10 November 2021, see: https://bit.ly/3HF2KMp.

[26] NOS, ‘Politie grijpt in bij protest in Harskamp tegen komst Afghanen, 24 August 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3rqgzsP.

[27] Omproep Gelderland, ‘Noodopvang Harskamp sluit na 100 dagen de deuren’, 1 December 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3vvAWcC.

[28] COA, ‘Eerste vluchtelingen Oekraïne in Harskamp’, 4 March 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/47pzgyE.

[29] COA (and other organisations), Handreiking Crisisnoodopvang, 2 December 2020, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3CzLMix.

[30] VWN, Gevlucht en vergeten?, August 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/4205TBR.

[31] Dutch refugee Council, Gevangen in een vastgelopen asielsysteem:  Gevolgen en verhalen  uit de praktijk, November 2019, available In Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2vSP2pW.

[32] See for example: NOS, “Ombudsman: zakgeld en privacy voor asielzoekers vanwege lange wachttijden”, 10 March 2020, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/33OOlL1.

[33] COA, Bezetting, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/2E95a6F. And KST 19637, no. 2992, Appendix to letter decision-making on the reception crisis, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3ImJjdc.

[34] E.g. Letter to the King’s Commissioners and the councils of the Mayor, 6 October 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3VzERQB and Letter to Parliament, 10 November 2023, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3wybNP1.

[35] Article 1(n) RVA, Decision of State Secretary, No 69941, 3 December 2018

[36] COA, Verschillende soorten opvang, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3IKH8kb.

[37] State Secretary, Letter KST19637 2572, 18 December 2019.

[38] WODC, ‘Incidenten en misdrijven door COA-bewoners 2017-2021’, 22 June 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/46MAd3A.

[39] For example in the case: Regional Court Den Bosch, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2020:4558, 25 May 2020, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3usuLWA.

[40] Regional Court Groningen, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2020:6252, 10 July 2020, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/49oRcuC. For a more recent judgement see: Regional Court Groningen, Case nos. AWB 22/6262 en NL22.21029, 11 November 2022.

[41] Inspection of the Ministry of Justice and Security, ‘Letter on the investigation of the HTL in Hoogeveen’, 13 October 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3jOns5O. See also this report from newspaper NRC, ‘Wat gebeurt er achter de muren van het ‘aso-azc’ in Hoogeveen?’, 11 November 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3vzymz9.

[42] KST 19637, no. 2995, 19 October 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3jNuw2y.

[43] E.g. VWN, ‘Brief VluchtelingenWerk Nederland t.b.v. het commissiedebat Vreemdelingen- en asielbeleid 22 juni 2022’, 17 June 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3GrK2sI, 5.

[44] See their website here: https://takecarebnb.org/.

[45] This information comes from the website of COA, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3HkHuNP.

[46] Minutes of the Committee Debate on 19 October 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/42So3Gh, 40.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation