A family of 10 Afghan asylum seekers in the Netherlands has refused to leave their hotel accommodation and move into a large family home located by the authorities because the location isn’t right for them.
The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) found the Shinwari couple, who have eight children aged between 2 and 12, a large house in the Zeeland village of Sint-Annaland.
It was reportedly large enough for the couple to relocate from their current accommodation at a hotel in Rotterdam.
The couple, however, refused the housing offer because they believed it to be too far for them to travel from Sint-Annaland to Rotterdam where one of the children is currently receiving semi-regular treatment for a cleft lip.
The trip is a little over an hour by car, and the COA insisted the distance is reasonable and comfortably within the distance radius the agency uses when determining the suitability of social housing.
“Rotterdam is within 50 kilometers as the crow flies,” explained COA lawyer Guusje Dijkman at a court hearing on the matter in Almelo on Tuesday. “It took the COA an incredible amount of effort to find such a large rental house,” he added.
The Afghan family is now taking legal action to prevent their eviction from the hotel accommodation with the family’s lawyer warning that such a move would have “disproportionate” consequences for those involved. “If the family ends up in the homeless shelter, they will almost certainly not be able to stay together,” Reshma Sahebdien told the court.
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Counsel for the COA argued, however, that the family has a known “social network in Breda and Antwerp that they can call on,” and claimed that while such a situation would not be ideal, the family has brought it upon themselves after rejecting both adequate and sought-after alternative accommodation.
“It’s annoying and bad for them, but the COA’s concern is not infinite. The couple put themselves in this position,” Dijkman added.
The story has garnered national attention after being commented on by Dutch conservative politician Geert Wilders. He criticized the family for rejecting a house big enough to house the huge family and exposed the preferential treatment given to asylum seekers over Dutch citizens who sometimes wait years for social housing.
“Afghans are offered a huge rental house with priority, suitable for 10 people! But they refuse, it’s not good enough for these fortune seekers,” Wilders tweeted on Tuesday.
“Meanwhile, the Dutch are on the waiting list for 10, sometimes 20 years! Immediately expel those ungrateful freeloaders!” he added.
The Dutch government is currently in a race against time to rehouse thousands of asylum seekers currently in temporary accommodation following the expiry of contracts with hotels and cruise liners who now want to return to their normal business.
“About 60,000 permanent places for asylum seekers are needed in the Netherlands, but structural shelter has not yet been arranged. It is, therefore, clear that emergency shelter is still unavoidable,” Hubert Bruls, chairman of the Dutch Security Council, revealed in March.