Amsterdam – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started to provide medical care to hundreds of people stranded outside the main Dutch reception centre for asylum-seekers in Ter Apel, in the northeastern Netherlands. MSF calls 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 reception centre in Ter Apel, which is the first entry point for refugees in the Netherlands. The centre is completely overwhelmed and unable to meet the most basic needs of new arrivals.
“This is the first time that MSF has ever provided medical assistance in the Netherlands. We cannot stand back and do nothing with this increasingly inhumane and unacceptable situation on our doorstep,” says Judith Sargentini, director for MSF Netherlands. “However, our intervention is a stop gap measure.”
Among those living in a field outside the facility in inhumane and undignified conditions were pregnant women, children and people with chronic diseases (such as diabetes), some of whom had run out of medication. There are no showers on site and the very few toilets available are not sufficiently maintained. Tents and makeshift shelters had been removed and people are sleeping on the ground, exposed to the elements.
We cannot stand back and do nothing with this increasingly inhumane and unacceptable situation on our doorstep.Judith Sargentini, director for MSF Netherlands
MSF saw people suffering from skin diseases, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, diarrhoea and vomiting, mental health problems, dental problems and injuries in various states of healing. The very real concern is that if this situation is allowed to continue, it may lead to serious medical emergencies.
Providing basic healthcare
Following consultation with the relevant authorities and the Red Cross, MSF has dispatched a medical team to provide basic healthcare to people in Ter Apel who are seeking asylum in the Netherlands. A medical team is present on site outside the centre to treat illness and injury; ensure that those with chronic diseases can continue with their medications; triage cases that need to be referred to hospital or seen at a health centre; as well as providing psychological first aid to adults and children.
Structural solution needed
“The Dutch government and local municipalities must urgently improve living conditions and take on the responsibility of providing vulnerable people with medical care,” Sargentini continues. “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.”