Emergency ordinance bans refugees from sleeping in tents, discriminating against people from the Middle East and Africa who don’t get the same treatment as Ukrainians.
Last week, the mayor of Groningen, and also the chairman of Safety Region Groningen ordered an emergency ordinance to ban unregistered refugees from sleeping outside the asylum center in Ter Apel. Dutch authorities are fully entitled to remove tents provided by asylum staff, leaving people to wait in the mud to get an appointment.
The Safety Region Groningen published on their website the ordinance as public health concerns arise. “There is a (serious fear of) disturbance of public order that necessitates immediate intervention,” it’s claimed on their website. But there are no concerns raised about the safety of refugees.
The ordinance has stirred a lot of tumult. Organizations from all over the province of Groningen gathered last Thursday to protest against the poor conditions refugees endure.
“The disguise that we’re seeing… It is advantageous for our neo-liberal country to have a system that actively discourages refugees from coming,” said Daphne Romkaes, the main speaker at the protest and a member of International Socialist of Groningen, an organization that fights for human rights.
“We need a government that recognizes the human rights that refugees have from the international treaties, that refugees can come here and it’s their right to be here,” Daphne said to The GO.
What is happening in Groningen?
Safety Region Groningen, the organization led by Koen Schulling, the mayor of Groningen, is allegedly obligated to assure the safety of people in the province.
“We remove tents because what we saw this summer and in 2015, it looked like a small camping site. It looked like an unsafe place to be. In the tents nobody could look inside,” said Mark Dijkhuis, a spokesperson of Safety Region Groningen.
Public health concerns of the citizens were the main reasons why the Safety Region asked the mayor to issue the ordinance. Nevertheless, Mark Dijkhuis told The GO that a lot of people have opinions about how the municipality should deal with refugees, but “this is not a political organization.”
Dijkhuis also refused to comment on the protest that took place in Groningen last week.
The European Council for Human Rights publicly raised concerns about the discriminatory treatment refugees receive, due to the high number of Ukrainians that fled their country.
Ukrainian refugees are protected by an EU treaty that gives them the privilege to skip procedures of being accommodated, and priority in front of other nationalities. Refugees from other parts of the world have been poorly treated and forced to sleep in rain and mud due to endless queues.
“Ukrainian people have a different treatment. Is it discriminatory? I don’t know,” said Mark Dijkhuis when asked about the privilege that Ukrainian refugees receive.