Why will there be an emergency shelter in Zoetermeer?

This emergency shelter for people who are (almost) status holders is a way to empty the full normal reception locations (asylum seekers' centers). Then they will have room there for new refugees.

What is COA?

The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) takes care of the reception of asylum seekers in the Netherlands throughout their asylum procedure. This means that COA provides housing from the moment the asylum seeker applies for asylum in the Netherlands until the moment the asylum seeker has to leave the Netherlands or is granted a residence permit. COA accommodates asylum seekers in asylum seekers' centers (AZC) or at emergency reception locations spread throughout the country.

What is the difference between an AZC and emergency shelter?

Asylum seekers stay in an asylum seekers' center (AZC). They stay there until their asylum application is decided. If it is rejected, they must return to their home country. If the asylum application is granted then that person is a status holder and receives housing.

Emergency shelter is temporary. People stay here temporarily until they can go to an asylum center (asylum seekers) or move on to housing (status holders).

Will the empty prison become an asylum seekers' center (AZC)?

No, the vacant prison is basically still being used as a temporary emergency shelter for mostly status holders or people who are very likely to receive residency permits.

What agreements have the municipality and COA made regarding questions and concerns?

The arrangements for the temporary shelter are set out in a board agreement between the municipality and COA. The main agreements are:

  • The emergency shelter was initially limited to one year and that year starts upon the arrival of the first residents. The first residents arrived in February 2022. After the first year, COA requested an extension. This extension was granted for a period of 2 years, until February 2025. There is room for 630 people in the shelter. At least half of these are status holders (refugees with a residence permit) and the other residents are asylum seekers with a high chance of a residence permit. There will be no unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
  • Security is always present at the reception location. COA and the municipality take action in case of nuisance.
  • Most residents go to work during the day and children go to school. There is also plenty to do at the reception location. COA involves Zoetermeer parties such as the Dutch Refugee Council and the Piëzo Foundation wherever possible.
  • The municipality of Zoetermeer may terminate the management agreement in the interim if the presence of and nuisance caused by the residents of the reception location demonstrably leads to a disturbance of public order.
  • All costs incurred by the municipality because of the emergency shelter are paid by COA.

Who lives in the emergency shelter?

A board agreement agreed to allow 630 residents to live in the emergency shelter. The group of residents will consist of:

  • at least half status holders
  • supplemented by asylum seekers who have a high probability of being granted residence permits

There are no unaccompanied minor asylum seekers living there.

Is there enough money for this shelter?

All costs for the emergency shelter will be paid by COA. This includes the modifications to make the prison suitable as an emergency shelter location. There is no cost to the municipality, and the emergency shelter has no impact on the municipal budget or taxes.

Will the refugees also receive benefits such as the ZoetermeerPas/a public transport chip card? Who pays for that?

No, refugees do not receive a ZoetermeerPas or an OV chip card from the municipality in addition to the emergency shelter.

How do people view being housed in a prison?

COA considers the prison a good reception location because of the space, privacy in the rooms and facilities (sports/games). An important difference between the emergency shelter and the prison is that emergency shelter residents are free and prisoners are not.

What are the future plans for the prison?

The municipality is in talks with the owner of the jail (the State Property Office) about the future of the jail after the emergency shelter closes again.

Will there be an environmental fund for local residents such as a playground, renovation of something, art...?

No, there will be no additional facilities and modifications in public spaces around the prison.

How do you make sure it doesn't become us-versus-them? That refugees feel welcome?

The municipality makes every effort to connect refugees and residents. For example, by organizing activities where everyone is welcome to get to know each other.

How will new residents of the new construction district receive information about the emergency shelter?

The developer Ten Brinke will keep them informed of developments as soon as the municipality also sends new letters to the area.

As a resident, can I object to the emergency shelter?

You can no longer object to the presence of the emergency shelter at this time.

However, you can share your concerns and questions with the congregation. You can send an email to the congregation to noodopvang@zoetermeer.nl.