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The Netherlands, a European country with about 18 million inhabitants and an area of 41,543 km2, is still one of the favorite destinations for migrants from Ukraine, Africa, Middle East and other continents.

A Dutch Franciscan friar, Br. Roland Putman, OFM, who is directly involved as a volunteer in caring for migrants across this land of thousand windmills, says that the number of migrants entering to the Netherlands has exceeded the last two years the country’s capacity to accommodate them. The lack of accommodation is caused by the government by closing several refugee centers, because the number of immigrants decreased due to Covid, but since 2021 the number is at the same rate as before Covid.

As a result, many migrants are left homeless. The government itself has taken a policy to limit the number of migrants due to the lack of space. In fact, many asylum seekers are still waiting to obtain a residence permit in the temporal shelters in uncertainty. Some face even the risk of detention cause their chance of asylum is limited, but Franciscan try to encourage them not to give up hope.

In main time the Dutch government policy has placed the problem unresolvable, the Netherlands Churches Council, both Protestant and Catholic, of which Br. Roland Putman enrolls as a member, took it as an opportunity to bring hope for migrants and refugees by opening some church buildings as shelters. All members of the Council agreed to make such commitment. Of course, this kind of agreement is an honorable path because making the church a “common home” for migrants is not an easy decision. However, this choice shows that the churches are being a real bridge of universal brotherhood where all people are accepted as brothers and sisters.

Clearly, the contra position of the Church Council’s commitment with the government policy arises tension between a set of restrictions on the one hand and fraternal hospitality on the other. Fortunately, the Church Council’s choice was not seen as a defiance of government policy, but rather as a favor to a government overwhelmed by the shortage of shelters for migrants. The Franciscans help organizing meetings to create more support in their neighborhood for housing immigrants. A strong message can be summed that the Churches and the government are working together.

Br. Taucen Girsang, OFM

Source: Br. Roland Putman, OFM

Coordinator of JPIC OFM in Netherlands