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Why Amsterdam housed refugees in a repurposed prison

In July, refugees in Amsterdam who had been living in a repurposed prison left for a demonstration. (Manette Ingenegeren/Wij Zijn Hier)

Amsterdam is grabbing headlines for the roundup of homeless refugees who were carted off to a prison. Has a city known for tolerance turned into a police state?

Not exactly. Actually, it was an a humanitarian gesture. 

Beulah Devaney reports for CityMetric that in a “novel social experiment,” the city sheltered 165 undocumented immigrants beginning late last year in a “repurposed prison.”

No one was arrested and everyone was free to come and go, the article emphasizes. The newcomers were given medical care, food and legal advice about asylum. They appreciated their surroundings so much that they successfully lobbied to stay longer than planned in the former prison.

The experimental housing program lasted six months. So far, only a dozen refugees were awarded residency. Most returned to Amsterdam’s streets as they await decisions on asylum or collect evidence for their applications, Devaney reports. Discussions are now underway about additional housing opportunities for the refugees. 


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