By Stephanie van den Berg
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A Dutch court on Thursday ordered the government to bring conditions in Dutch emergency asylum centres up to European Union standards and said vulnerable refugees should no longer be housed there.
Judges ruled that every asylum seeker who reported to a government centre in the Netherlands must immediately get "an indoor sleeping space, food, water and access to hygienic sanitation facilities".
The Dutch Council for Refugees had sued the Dutch state in August when hundreds of refugees were forced to sleep outside with little or no access to drinking water, sanitary facilities or healthcare, because there was no room at government-run asylum centres.
Several hundred asylum seekers report to the Netherlands main reception centre for asylum seekers in the northern town of Ter Apel each day. Spokesman Lennart Wegewijs of the government's Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, which oversees the shelters, told Reuters that they had managed to find indoor beds for everyone over the past few days.
In late August, a three-month-old baby died at the overcrowded asylum centre in Ter Apel, spurring outrage in the Netherlands. The authorities are still investigating the death but has said their preliminary conclusion was that no criminal acts were committed.
The Netherlands currently houses around 30,000 asylum seekers in emergency and crisis centres, Justice Ministry spokesman Etienne Buijs told Reuters. He said the government was studying the court ruling.
Apart from improving conditions in emergency and crisis asylum housing, the judges ordered the government could no longer house vulnerable groups of refugees there at all.
Vulnerable groups, which include families with small babies, underage migrants traveling alone and asylum seekers who need medical or psychiatric help, must be housed in special facilities which can provide the help they need, the judges said.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; editing by Nick Macfie and Bernadette Baum)