Refugee families: difficult to deport

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The number of refugee families staying in the Netherlands after their asylum requests have been rejected is increasing. Last summer, they were being housed in two special centres. Since then five new centres have been opened, providing shelter to over 1700 people.

Dutch Immigration Minister Gert Leers has been trying to increase the number of deportations of unsuccessful asylum-seekers. One of the measures he's taken is to close down refugee centres. As a result, thousands of people have gone underground or are living on the streets.

Last year, the Council of Europe and Dutch judges forced the minister to provide housing to asylum-seekers with underage children. Two centres with spartan facilities were made available. The families have to live and sleep in a single room. They can't have a sofa, and they have to share a kitchen with other families. There are no arrangements for them to visit doctors or lawyers. UNICEF visited the centres last winter and found children who only had summer clothes on. 

The goal of the centres is to make life so unpleasant that the families will leave the Netherlands as soon as possible. But the Dutch Council of Refugees and Defence for Children say the centres have been a failure. A lawyer, who visited one of the centres, said conditions were so deplorable that he is taking the government to court to have it closed. The case will be heard on Wednesday.