Doctors Without Borders has deployed at the Ter Apel site amid overcrowding and dire conditions
The death of a three-month-old baby at an overcrowded centre for asylum seekers in the Netherlands is being investigated, as medical charity Doctors without Borders (MSF) were deployed at the controversial facility for the first time.
The unnamed infant’s death is the latest incident at the Ter Apel centre in northern Netherlands, where conditions have been denounced by MSF as “inhuman” and staff have walked out due to the failures of the service.
Those seeking asylum have been forced to sleep in the open, while tents have been banned as they impede the view of CCTV and there is evidence of the pegs being used as weapons. On Wednesday, more than 700 people slept outside.
The child was said to have died in a sports hall that was acting as an overflow service next to the main reception centre.
Eric van der Burg, a Dutch minster for asylum, said he was “shocked” by the incident.
He tweeted: “A three-month-old baby died last night in the sports hall in Ter Apel. Like everyone involved, I am deeply shocked by this terrible event. An investigation is currently under way to determine what exactly happened. I wish the family and staff all the best.”
In a statement the country’s youth care and justice department said that first aid had been given to the child at the sports hall. “Currently little is known about the baby’s death, but first aid given failed to reanimate the child,” they said.
A spokesperson for the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers that staffs the facility said: “The staff are deeply shocked by this terrible event. This is particularly hard on Ter Apel. There are feelings of sadness and powerlessness among residents and employees.”
The Dutch branch of MSF were deployed in Ter Apel on Thursday – a first for the organisation that usually gives medical assistance to those in war zones.
“As from today we are giving medical care in Ter Apel,” the director of Doctors Without Borders, Judith Sargentini, said. “Living conditions there are inhuman and must be improved immediately. There are no showers and the toilets are dirty.”
“We have reached a low point in our country,” added the mayor of Groningen, Koen Schuiling, calling on other municipalities to open their doors and help alleviate overcrowding at Ter Apel.
Plans to give asylumseekers accommodation elsewhere have run into fierce resistance, however.
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Residents of the small eastern town of Albergen have been protesting for days against the Dutch refugee agency’s announcement to house up to 300 asylum seekers in a local hotel.
Chanting slogans like “No to asylum seekers!” and “Go away!”, residents said the decision was forced upon them despite objections that the town was too small for the influx of hundreds of foreigners.
Experts say the current crisis did not stem from higher numbers of asylum seekers crossing the border into the Netherlands.
Rather, it resulted from a current housing shortage in the Netherlands and the Dutch government scaling down its capacity to handle numbers of asylum seekers – which decreased during the coronavirus pandemic.

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