3rd Oct 2023

Baby dies at Dutch emergency refugee shelter

  • Ter Apel is the largest asylum reception facility in the Netherlands and can house some 2,000 people (Photo: Directie Voorlichting)
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Dutch authorities say they will investigate the death of a three-month old baby who died earlier this week at an emergency shelter for refugees.

"The baby died this morning in a sports hall that serves as emergency shelter for asylum seekers in Ter Apel, Westerwolde municipality," said Dutch government public health institution IGJ, in a statement on Wednesday (24 August).

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IGJ said the investigation will be carried out jointly with the Dutch justice and security inspectorate.

Aside from looking into the cause of the baby's death, the probe will also narrow in on living conditions around the application centre and the sports halls.

'Like Moria'

The death has further highlighted what aid agencies are describing as deplorable conditions of the country's main refugee reception facility at Ter Apel, which can house up to 2,000 people.

Emergency aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Thursday morning announced they would be providing medical care at the application centre.

It is the first time MSF offers medical assistance in the Netherlands.

"It is unprecedented that we will offer medical assistance in the Netherlands," said Judith Sargentini, MSF director for the Netherlands.

"But the circumstances in which these people find themselves are inhumane," she said.

MSF had visited the overcrowded facility last week and likened conditions to Moria, a ghetto-like camp that was torched on the Greek island of Lesbos in 2020.

The overcrowded conditions at Ter Apel has forced several hundred asylum seekers to sleep outside the facility, including pregnant women, children and people with chronic diseases.

MSF had visited the facility last week where they found people with skin diseases.

"There are no showers and toilets are not well maintained," it said.

The aid workers are demanding the Dutch federal and municipal authorities to immediately improve living conditions at the reception facility.

The Netherlands is grappling with a shortage of shelters, an issue that had been highlighted over the summer by the Dutch Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA).

The COA in late July said it was sheltering over 43,000 people, some in temporary locations. It also said the demand for asylum reception was on the rise and that new shelters were needed.

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