In 2018, approximately 40 Dutch local governments offer a certain form of shelter for rejected asylum seekers. These shelters are often referred to as “bed-bath-bread” shelters (bed-bad-brood opvang). This refers to the basic services provided by the municipality. In practice, this often means two meals a day and shelter during the night. A growing number of Dutch municipalities also provides all-day shelter or housing, and some even provide social and legal support. How did this come about?
‘Bed-bad-brood’ shelter is provided to rejected asylum seekers. This group of people is officially obliged to leave and return to their country of origin and the Dutch central government is responsible for their return. However, in practice, many do not or cannot leave and still stay in the country for years. That being the fact, some local governments decide to provide shelter for rejected asylum seekers. One of the main reasons for providing care and shelter, is that the city council (and the public) does not want people to have to sleep on the streets.
In the field of ‘bed-bad-brood’, local governments closely work together with a large number of civil society organizations, other governmental actors and citizens. The degree and intensity of the cooperation differs. The importance of constant consultation and feedback between the different organizations stands central and is typical in this cooperation. Cooperating as partners on an equal level is important to obtain results. Therefore, good horizontal relations and trust between the local government and other organizations are important. In most cases, the local government proactively outsources the sheltering to other organizations, by giving subsidies to these organizations. To stay involved, there is frequent consultation between the local government and others.
Besides humanitarian/human rights reasons for offering shelter to rejected asylum seekers, there is often also a pragmatic reason for doing so. Local governments deal with the reality of these people living on the streets, and, according to many city councils, this is an undesirable situation.
Openness and transparency about the practical implications and consequences of the policy, is important to maintain public support. The cooperation between a broad variety of actors and a solution-oriented approach can also help build this broad consensus. By using both humanitarian as well as legal and pragmatic arguments, the public gets a better understanding of policy decisions. In finding pragmatic arguments, expertise of practitioners plays an important role.