Netherlands: MSF provides medical care to stranded asylum seekers

White flag with red logo of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against sunny blue sky

© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

People face increasingly inhumane situation, limited medical care in Ter Apel reception center

UPDATE: MSF ended its intervention in Ter Apel on September 11, 2022 after providing nearly 450 medical consultations and more than 200 mental health consultations. The number of patients decreased since August, and shelter and sanitation outside the reception center improved significantly.

NEW YORK/AMSTERDAM, AUGUST 25, 2022—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began today providing medical care to hundreds of people stranded outside the main Dutch reception center for asylum seekers in Ter Apel. There are currently approximately 700 people sleeping outside of the reception center as it is completely overwhelmed and unable to meet the most basic needs of new arrivals, which has already led to serious medical emergencies.

Last Friday, an MSF team carried out an assessment of the situation outside the reception center. Among those living in a field outside the facility in inhumane and undignified conditions are pregnant women, children, and people with chronic diseases like diabetes who are at risk of running out of their medications. There are no showers on-site and the very few toilets available are not sufficiently maintained, which could lead to the spread of diseases or cause other health problems. MSF has seen people with skin diseases, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, diarrhea and vomiting, mental health problems, dental problems, and injuries in various states of healing.

The Dutch government must urgently provide access to medical care and improve conditions for people forced to sleep outside the overcrowded center, said MSF.

“We cannot stand back and do nothing with this increasingly inhumane and unacceptable situation on our doorstep,” said Judith Sargentini, director of MSF in the Netherlands. “The Dutch government and local municipalities must urgently improve living conditions and take on the responsibility of providing vulnerable people with medical care. Furthermore, there must be a structural solution, such as creating multiple—and more—humane reception locations. This is something that the Dutch government has been called upon to do for years.”

For several years, it has been challenging for new asylum seekers to find shelter. Since June, it has become even more difficult. As asylum applicants who are approved to stay in the Netherlands struggle to find their own homes, many remain in the reception center, leaving fewer spaces for new arrivals.

Following consultation with the relevant authorities and the Red Cross, MSF has dispatched a medical team to immediately provide basic health care to people in Ter Apel who are seeking asylum in the Netherlands—most of whom are from the Middle East and Africa. This team will treat illnesses and injuries, ensure that those with chronic diseases can continue with their medications, triage cases that need to be referred to a hospital or health center, and provide psychological first aid to adults and children.

This is the first time MSF has provided medical assistance in the Netherlands.