Types of accommodation


Country Report: Types of accommodation Last updated: 08/04/22


Dutch Council for Refugees Visit Website

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).[1] 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.[2] Vulnerable asylum seekers such as children do not stay at JCS.

As of the end of 2021, the total capacity of the Dutch reception system reached a total of 36,566 people staying at 104 different locations, of which 70 regular and 34 temporary.[3] The total (104) does not include the reception of Afghan evacuees in locations from the Ministry of Defence and ‘acute emergency’ reception locations managed by municipalities. One third of the people staying at these locations are beneficiaries of international protection (12,123). It is expected that 42,000 reception places will be necessary to offer all asylum seekers with the right to reception a bed throughout 2022. Between 24 August and 23 December, 9,717 additional reception places were created, most of them in temporary locations. Since a number of these locations have closed again, currently 8,227 additional reception places are available.

Temporary emergency locations were frequently opened and closed in 2021. Recently arrived asylum seekers are placed in these locations, together with family members who came to the Netherlands through family reunification, Afghan evacuees and asylum seekers who filed a subsequent application. Emergency locations have been opened in sport and event halls, on boats, in pavilions and in former COVID-19 test locations.

Afghan evacuees have been 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 Ombudsman 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.[4] The State Secretary finally moved Afghan evacuees still living in tents at Heumensoord to another site at the end of January 2022. At another site in 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.[5]

Asylum seekers whose request is dealt with in Track 2 are only entitled to ‘austere’ reception as of September 2020. During 2020, many asylum seekers stayed at the ‘austere’ reception centre (which is a separate fenced building on the same site of normal reception centres in Ter Apel and Budel). Vulnerable asylum seekers 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,[6] 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.[7]

Central Reception Centre (COL) and Process Reception Centres (POL)

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.

After this stay at the COL, the asylum seeker is transferred to a Process Reception Centre (Proces Opvanglocatie, POL). There are four POL in the Netherlands: Ter Apel, Budel, Wageningen, Schiphol and Gilze, totalling a capacity of 2,000 places. Neither capacity nor occupancy of COL and POL are registered.

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, he or she receives 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.[8] Additionally, The Dutch Council for Refugees and the Ombudsman 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.[9]

Centres for Asylum Seekers (AZC)

An asylum seeker remains in the POL if the IND decides to examine the asylum application in the regular asylum 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.

Due to the large number of asylum applications in 2015, COA was experiencing difficulties in providing accommodation for all the newly arrived asylum seekers. Creative solutions were needed, for example emergency reception centres and allowing refugees with a residence permit to reside with family and friends. The number of people in reception centres has decreased from 47,764 at the end of 2015 to 21,037 at the end of 2017.[10] Therefore, such solutions were no longer needed. However, due to the long waiting times at the IND, applicants spend longer periods in the reception centres. In addition, more and more beneficiaries of international protection have to stay in the reception centres awaiting to be housed. At of the end of 2020, 7,762 beneficiaries of international protection were staying in COA locations,[11] but this number significantly increased in 2021, to reach 36,059 persons residing in COA reception centres managed at the end of 2021.[12]

The COA continuously requests municipalities to provide more locations and places.

Handhaving en Toezichtlocatie (HTL)

The Enforcement and Supervision Location (Handhaving en Toezichtlocatie, HTL) was installed 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.[13] This facility is to be distinguished from VBL or GL, where pFreedom of Movementersons subject to return proceedings may be housed.

The rules in these centres are stricter than in a regular AZC; inhabitants are obliged to report whenever they leave or return to the centre. There are also compulsory day programs during which asylum seekers have limited opportunities to communicate with the outside world. [14]

One HTL in Hoogeveen, opened in December 2017 as an EBTL, and became an HTL only in February 2020. The location has a capacity of 50 places.[15]

The Inspection of the Ministry of Justice and Security did a follow-up investigation on how the Ministry deals with asylum seekers who cause tension or any form of nuisance.[16] The investigation shows that employees at the HTL are well able to reduce nuisance. Compared to the inspection in 2018, more resources are available at the HTL location to limit nuisance. For example, asylum seekers are not allowed to leave the HTL site without a valid reason. The fact that the residents mainly stay at the HTL location has positive consequences for the nuisance inside and outside the HTL. As a result, the employees also get more time to supervise the residents, not only to set boundaries. The inspection in 2018 of the EBTL concluded that this type of reception 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 be closed.[17] 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. Although put forward as a positive change by the Inspection, several lawyers have serious doubts about the restriction of the freedom of movement in the HTL. Asylum seekers 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.[18] 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.[19] This was mostly due to the possibility to leave the HTL, even though leaving means that one loses his right to reception.

[1] Article 3(3) Aliens Act.

[2] 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.

[3] Numbers available at https://www.coa.nl.

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

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

[6] Council of State, ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:1626 and ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:1627, 28 July 2021.

[7] E.g. Regional Court Haarlem, 18 August 2021, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2021:9028.

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

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

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] COA, Bezetting, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/2E95a6F.

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

[14] Article 9 (7) RVA

[15] COA, Extra begeleiding en toezichtlocatie, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/2Bs9QBB.

[16] Inspection of the Ministry of Justice and Security, ‘Follow-up investigation into the approach of asylum seekers who cause tension or any form of nuisance’, 1 April 2021, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3JWZ4rp.

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

[18] For example in the case: Regional Court Den Bosch, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2020:4558, 25 May 2020.

[19] Regional Court Groningen, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2020:6252, 10 July 2020.

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