Refugees wait outside at the main reception centre for asylum seekers, in Ter Apel
An asylum seeker waits outside at the main reception centre for asylum seekers, in Ter Apel, Netherlands August 26, 2022.

Europe's leading human rights body has warned the Netherlands that it is failing to uphold the most basic rights for asylum seekers arriving in the country.

The assessment by the Strasburg-based Council for Europe was sent to the Dutch minister for migration on Aug. 26 and was published on its website on Friday.

Hundreds of asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors, have been sleeping rough outside the main reception centre in the northeastern Dutch town of Ter Apel due to a shortage of shelters.

Last week a 3-month-old baby died at Ter Apel, drawing international concern. The cause of death is under investigation.

Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic said that newcomers were not receiving basic healthcare required under European law.

"The current situation of persons sleeping outside the centre also appears to fall short of even the minimum standards," Mijatovic wrote to Dutch Migration Minister Eric van der Burg.

Mijatovic voiced concerns about the difference between treatment given to Ukrainian refugees and to refugees from other countries and called on the government to "prevent discriminatory treatment in access to reception and other services".

Van der Burg said in a reply that the Dutch government is taking measures to ensure safe and dignified reception for asylum applicants, but that a wider approach is needed.

"The Netherlands cannot do this in isolation; solutions are needed at European level as well," he wrote.

The Council of Europe criticism follows concern from the Dutch Council for Refugees, an NGO that defends the rights of refugees of asylum seekers, which said on Aug. 17 it is suing the Dutch state to improve what it called "inhumane" conditions at asylum centres. That case is due to be heard on Sept. 15.

Alternative emergency shelters have been set up in recent days to prevent people from having to sleep outdoors. Nidos, a Dutch organization that provides assistance to young refugees, said it was seeking shelter for 150 unaccompanied minors.