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Netherlands: Cruise ship set to house asylum seekers

From the end of August, authorities in the Netherlands are set to house around 300 people on board a former cruise ship in the port of Velsen.

A cruise ship intended to house asylum seekers until the end of 2024 docked in Velsen, located around 30 kilometers west of the Dutch capital Amsterdam, on Wednesday (August 9) in the evening. Dutch authorities say the “Ocean Majesty” will be able to host around 300 asylum seekers in total.

The people, who are due to be moved to the ship, all already have residence permits, and are waiting for accommodation on land to become free amid a wider housing shortage in the Netherlands. Dutch authorities say they hope they can find a home on board the former ocean liner in the meantime.

“This is not a holiday resort, but accommodation because of the lack of other reception places,” a spokesperson for the Dutch asylum authorities told the German news agency dpa on Wednesday (August 9).

The Ocean Majesty is now retired, being almost 50 years old, reported dpa. It is about 135 meters long, and was a popular resort ship used mainly by Germans in the past.

The former luxury facilities like pools, boutiques and bars will be stripped out and turned over to provide basic accommodation.

Also read: Asylum seekers in tents in the Netherlands and Belgium

Larger ship moored in Rotterdam

This is not the first cruise ship that the Dutch authorities have deployed for the purpose of housing migrants and asylum seekers. Another boat, which used to link ports on the Baltic Sea, was also moored in Velsen, but has now been moved to Rotterdam.

The Silja Europe is about 200 meters long and has 12 floors. It is still being used to house around 1,200 asylum seekers until a more permanent housing solution can be found.

The Netherlands and neighboring Belgium have been facing an acute accommodation crisis for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees since at least last summer. There is not enough social housing available, and many people are forced to stay in asylum hostels even long after they have been granted protection or a residence permit.

Because of the growing crisis, the central government has asked local municipalities to come forward with interim solutions such as housing asylum seekers on decommissioned ferries and cruise ships.

In the past, the Netherlands had also deployed the Bibby Stockholm, which now moored in Portland Harbor in the UK to house asylum seekers.

Also read: Source of typhoid on Dutch migrant accommodation ship established

Asylum statistics in the Netherlands

The Central Bureau for Statistics in the Netherlands (CBS) found that in 2022, 46,460 asylum seekers and relatives of recognized refugees had arrived in the country. Since May this year, the numbers of those arriving in the Netherlands has shown a slight increase.

In June, 3,025 asylum seekers arrived in the Netherlands, marking an increase of 480 on the previous month.

Just over 40% of asylum seekers in the Netherlands come from Syria. Around 8% are Turkish, 6.1% Yemeni, 5.6% Eritrean and 4.1% Somali.

A little over half (56.5%) of all asylum seekers are adult males, with 17.2% females and 26.3% underage children.

Also read: Reception crisis worsens for asylum seekers in Belgium

Growing rate of migrant and refugee minors

In 2022, the Netherlands registered 4,205 unaccompanied minors arriving, which was almost double the number compared to who arrived in 2021 and higher than a previous peak of 3,860 in 2015. The total number of arrivals of asylum seekers, however, was also greater in 2022 than in 2015.

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR stated that in 2022, the Netherlands was host to 218,457 refugees in total.

According to figures published by the Dutch Refugee Council Vluchtelingenwerk, in 2022 the acceptance rates for Yemenis, Turks, Afghans and Syrians were all above 90%.

Iraqi, Pakistani, Ethiopian, Chinese, Russian and Eritrean asylum seekers as well as stateless people enjoyed acceptance rates of over 80%, while Somalians, Iranians and Egyptians all saw an acceptance rate of over 70%.

The overall acceptance rate for asylum in the Netherlands in 2022 was 87.2%.

With dpa

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