The instances of asylum seekers not having access to reception accommodation are addressed under Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions.
Conditions in (crisis)emergency locations
In 2022, reception conditions provided to many asylum seekers did not meet the minimum legal standards. The Dutch Council for Refugees (VWN) published three Quickscans on the conditions in (crisis) emergency locations. The living conditions in emergency reception centres for refugees and asylum seekers are seriously inadequate. Many locations do not ensure that basic needs – such as privacy, security and warmth – are fulfilled. There are also concerns about health care, access to education and other activities for children and the fact that asylum seekers are forced to frequently move from one facility to the other.
After almost a year of witnessing said conditions, the Dutch Council for Refugees (VWN) formally announced that it holds the State and COA responsible for the current circumstances which violate the Receptions Conditions Directive, and that if the situation would not improve, within a month, it would take the matter to court in a tort procedure. The situation did not change, therefore VWN summoned the State and COA in front of the Regional Court of the Hague on 17 August 2022. On 6 October 2022, the court of first instance confirmed that the State has an obligation of result to take appropriate measures to guarantee dignified reception facilities for asylum seekers. In fulfilling these obligations, the State must take into account the EUAA reception guidelines, as they are widely supported scientific insights and internationally accepted standards. Furthermore, the court established that COA and the State needed to improve reception conditions in a timely manner, detailing different terms for various situations in the country:
- In Ter Apel, every asylum seeker who wants to register their application must immediately be offered a safe covered sleeping place, food, water and access to hygienic sanitary facilities.
- All asylum seekers must be given immediate access to any form of necessary health care.
- The vulnerable asylum seekers mentioned in the Crisis Emergency Locations Guide (including babies and their families and heavily pregnant women) may no longer be placed in crisis emergency shelters, with immediate effect.
- All asylum seekers must be medically screened before being placed in a crisis emergency location within two weeks.
- Additional reception for unaccompanied minors must be realized within two weeks, in particular for the unaccompanied minors currently residing in Ter Apel.
- A maximum of 55 unaccompanied minors may stay in Ter Apel for a maximum of five days, within two weeks.
- Minor asylum seekers must be given access to play facilities and education within four weeks.
- All asylum seekers residing in (crisis) emergency reception locations must receive a financial allowance, within four weeks.
- Vulnerable asylum seekers may no longer be placed in an emergency reception location in four weeks’ time, unless their specific special reception needs are met in that location.
The overall situation had to be improved within nine months. The State and COA appealed the court decision and asked for the judgment to be suspended. This request was not allowed, meaning that the State and COA needed to fulfil the obligations that were imposed within a short time period. On 20 December 2022, the Hague Court of Appeal upheld the essence of the earlier ruling: the reception conditions in which thousands of asylum seekers are forced to live and do not meet minimum legal requirements. The ‘reception crisis’ is a self-made crisis caused by the government’s policies. Therefore, the State and COA could not invoke the force majeure situation of article 18(9) Reception Conditions Directive. However, although the Court expects the State and COA to fulfil their legal obligations as soon as possible, the deadline given to the State to improve all reception conditions was revoked. The State and COA still need to provide with immediate effect that:
- Asylum seekers are no longer left in the streets or sleeping outdoors in Ter Apel.
- Vulnerable asylum seekers should not be placed in (crisis) emergency locations unless their special needs are met there.
- The State and COA must make every effort to screen asylum seekers medically as far as possible before they are transferred from Ter Apel to another reception center – especially if that other facility is an (crisis)emergency location; if the screening could not take place immediately, it should take place as soon as possible thereafter.
- Access to necessary health care is be provided.
- Asylum seekers in crisis emergency locations must be provided with a weekly financial allowance in accordance with Article 14 Rva 2005.
- Children in (crisis) emergency locations should have access to playing facilities and education. An exception can only be made if there is no way to meet this condition immediately due to a shortage of teachers, and then only as long as the State continues its efforts to make education accessible to minor asylum seekers.
Moreover, the Court ruled that the State treats displaced persons from Ukraine and asylum seekers
from other countries unequally. The Court rejected VWN’s request to order the State and COA to treat
all asylum seekers equally, based on the fact that the goal of ensuring that reception conditions meet the State’s minimum legal obligations ,was deemed impossible to achieve within a short period of time. The Court also does not consider it their role to instruct the State on how to ensure that the State ensures equal treatment of all asylum seekers. None of the parties appealed this decision, so the judgement is final.
Conditions in AZCs
Residents of a regular reception centre usually live with 5 to 8 people in one unit. Each unit has several bedrooms and a shared living room, kitchen and sanitary facilities. At the time of writing, there are no reports of serious deficiencies in the sanitary facilities that are provided in the reception centres. Residents are responsible for keeping their habitat in order. Unaccompanied children live in small-scale shelters, which are specialised in the reception of unaccompanied children. They are intensively monitored to increase their safety (see section on Special Reception Needs).
Adults can attend programmes and counselling meetings, tailored to the type and stage of the asylum procedure in which they are. Next to this, it is possible for asylum seekers to work on maintenance of the centre, cleaning of common areas, etc. and earn a small fee of up to €14 per week doing this. It is also possible for children as well as adults to participate in courses or sports at the local sports club. Children of school age are obliged to attend school. To practice with teaching materials and to keep in touch with family and friends, asylum seekers can visit the Open Education Centre (Open Leercentrum) which is equipped with computers with internet access. Children can do their homework here. There is supervision by other asylum seekers and Dutch volunteers.
AZC are so-called open centres. This entails that asylum seekers are free to go outside if they please. However, there is a weekly duty to report (meldplicht) in order for the COA to determine whether the asylum seeker still resides in the facility and whether he or she is still entitled to the facilities. Some reception centres such as HTL, as well as centres for rejected asylum seekers, have a stricter regime. There have previously been some incidents and issues with asylum seekers. Other incidents are related to Dutch citizens protesting the establishment of a reception centre in their city.
Residents can use the MyCOA-application – available in 10 languages – to obtain extensive information on their stay in an AZC. For example, they receive a message when post arrives; they can obtain information on the job market in the Netherlands or regarding COVID-19 vaccines.
 VWN, First Quickscan, 14 December 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3QzQimT, VWN, Second Quickscan, 9 March 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3iubcHC and VWN, Third Quickscan, 19 October 2022, https://bit.ly/3ZseCuT.
 VWN, ‘VluchtelingenWerk takes legal action against the government and COA over shelter crisis’, 7 July 2-2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3ZphJnh. See also a more detailed explanation on the situation and reasons for VWN to summone COA and the State plus an inspection of a few (crisis)emergency locations by VWN in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3GSaiOp.
 Regional Court The Hague (civil department), ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:10210, 6 October 2022, par. 7.4.
 The Hague Court of Appeal (civil department), ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2022:2078, 17 October 2022.
 The Hague Court of Appeal (civil department), ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2022:2078, 20 December 2022.
 This has also been confirmed by the ACVZ and ROB (Raad voor het Openbaar Bestuur). In their report they state that the reception crisis is a self-made crisis by the Dutch government: ‘Asielopvang uit de crisis’, 14 June 2022, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3ik1OGw
 Article 18(1) and (3) RVA.
 Article 19(1)(e) RVA.