AMSTERDAM – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started providing medical care to hundreds of people stranded outside the main Dutch reception center for asylum seekers in Ter Apel, in the northeast of the Netherlands. MSF is calling on the Dutch government to urgently provide access to medical care and improve conditions for people forced to sleep outside the overcrowded centre.
Last Friday, an MSF team carried out an assessment of the situation outside the Ter Apel reception centre, which is the first point of entry for refugees into the Netherlands. The center is completely overwhelmed and unable to meet the most basic needs of newcomers.
“This is the first time that MSF has provided medical assistance in the Netherlands. We cannot stand idly by and do nothing in the face of this increasingly inhumane and unacceptable situation on our doorstep,” says Judith Sargentini, director of MSF Netherlands. “However, our intervention is a palliative measure.”
Among those living in a field outside the facility in inhumane and undignified conditions were pregnant women, children, and people with chronic illnesses (such as diabetes), some of whom no longer had medications. There are no showers on site and the very few toilets available are not sufficiently maintained. Tents and makeshift shelters have been removed and people are sleeping on the ground, exposed to the weather.
MSF has seen people with skin diseases, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, diarrhea and vomiting, mental health issues, dental issues and wounds in various stages of healing . The real concern is that if this situation is allowed to continue, it could lead to serious medical emergencies.
Provide basic health care
After consultation with the relevant authorities and the Red Cross, MSF dispatched a medical team to provide basic health care to people from Ter Apel seeking asylum in the Netherlands. A medical team is on site outside the center to treat illnesses and injuries; ensure that people with chronic conditions can continue to take their medications; triage cases that need to be referred to hospital or seen at a health center; as well as the provision of psychological first aid to adults and children.
Structural solution needed
“The Dutch government and local municipalities must urgently improve living conditions and take responsibility for providing medical care to vulnerable people,” Sargentini continues. “In addition, there must be a structural solution, such as the creation of multiple and more human reception areas. This is something the Dutch government has been called upon to do for years.