Despite a government minister’s opposition, five gay migrants in Amsterdam have been moved to a new location after they were threatened, spat on and attacked by other residents housed in their refugee centre.
The threats and attacks against gay migrants are so numerous and serious that they “often don’t dare leave their rooms”, Philip Tijsma of gay rights lobby group COC told Amsterdam’s daily newspaper Het Parool.
Since September, Amsterdam has become the temporary home for many migrants from the Middle East, especially Syria. In October one particular shelter in the borough of Zuidoost saw unrest break out that was directed at gay migrants. The Director of Care for the Salvation Army in the city, Harry Doef, admitted: “We could not guarantee the men’s safety.”
In cooperation with a local affordable housing company, the Salvation Army found alternative accommodation for the three Syrians, one Iraqi and one Iranian who had been threatened.
Then in November trouble broke out in a second emergency migrant shelter in the same borough of Amsterdam, again aimed at gay migrants housed there. Next weekend four people will be moved to a separate house for their own safety, and early next year there will be a dedicated wing for the vulnerable group in a shelter under construction in a former nursing home.
Although the idea is supported by the local council, saying it provides a safe environment, Amsterdam’s so-far unique move is not universally welcomed. Junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff previously said he does not support separate accommodation for gay migrants because it may be “stigmatising”. In addition the mere existence of the dedicated shelter could render it a target for threats.
COC’s Mr. Tijsma welcomed the move, however, expressing his hope that other councils will follow Amsterdam’s example in solving what he says is a “severe” problem. He asked: “So what if a refugee has a roof over his head, if he subsequently dares not leave his room?”
It is not known how Dutch authorities plan to prevent migrants from importing anti-gay cultural practices from the Middle East once those granted leave to stay start being integrated into Western European society.