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COA or municipality: who’s responsible?

The Municipality of Dronten is temporarily bailing out the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) in Ter Apel by accommodating 360 asylum seekers at the Biddinghuizen event site in the province of Flevoland. This helps the COA avoid a sky-high fine. Rowie Stolk, Assistant Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, discusses this with regional broadcaster ‘Omroep Flevoland’.

An autonomous administrative authority

The COA is an autonomous administrative authority (ZBO) that performs a government task. ZBOs hold a special position within the central government as they exercise public authority and are not hierarchically subordinate to a government minister. ZBOs are independent, while the minister is responsible for implementing and supervising the policy implemented by a ZBO. The minister also needs to be able to account for a ZBO to the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives.

A case previously brought by the Municipality of Ter Apel means that COA Ter Apel now risks a fine of €15,000 per day if it exceeds the maximum of 2,000 asylum seekers. Ter Apel regularly accommodates too many asylum seekers.

This leads to the question of who’s responsible: the municipality or the COA? Stolk calls it ‘a complicated issue’, which is also acknowledged by the court. ‘The COA can’t always change the situation. After all, the Dutch Minister of Justice and Security has to ensure that COA is able to perform its governmental task,’ says Stolk.

The COA is responsible for safety and enforcement on COA premises, while the municipality is only responsible in the event of criminal cases. The municipality is tasked with maintaining public order and safety outside of the premises, which is where most incidents happen, according to Omroep Flevoland.

The experts – Rowie Stolk and Professor Heinrich Winter from the University of Groningen – both believe that it ‘remains a complex issue as the government has given the COA this task, which it has to do without getting involved in politics. But it depends on both the government and the goodwill of municipalities in order to do that.’

More information

Read the full Omroep Flevoland article (in Dutch)

Photo: Benjamin Child through Unsplash

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