Internationals unnotified about refugee home

International students living in the Martini student house were not informed by the municipality about the plans to open a refugee housing centre in their area. According to the municipality, the students should have been told.

The Martini House, which accommodates 64 residents and is one of SSH’s properties for international students, is in the Corpus den Hoorn neighbourhood. Dutch residents and business owners in that neighbourhood, along with the Hoornse Meer area, were informed by a letter from the municipality about the pending arrival of up to 600 refugees at a housing centre in the coming weeks.

Jolien Stokroos, a representative for SSH in Groningen, had not been informed about the planned addition of the centre herself as of Thursday. However, Stokroos says that the municipality informed the residents living in the immediate vicinity of the planned housing centre.

Martini student house

But Nico Beets, a spokesperson from the municipality of Groningen, confirms that residents of Donderslaan, the street where Martini student house is located, should have been informed about the refugee centre. ‘Residents living within an elliptical area around the address of the planned centre were informed, and that street certainly falls within that area.’

Beets said that the municipality would strive to correct the oversight. Although there is information about the planned refugee centre on the municipality website, it is not yet available in English. Beets said that an English translation may eventually be added.

The centre will be across the street from the Martini Hospital in a building at Van Swietenlaan 23, which is roughly one kilometre away from the student house.

Informational session

Around 6,500 residents were informed about the arrival of the centre via a letter from the municipality and were invited to an informational session at Martini Plaza on Monday. The plan is to make the property available as a residency for refugees for at least one year.

Even though the students in the house did not receive advance notice about the plans, residents there were in favour of the idea. Domagoj Cavrak, a Croatian student of International Economics and Business, was not surprised that the students had not been informed, though. ‘We, the international students, don’t have much say in it as non-residents or nationals of the Netherlands.’

‘Only natural’

He is very positive about the planned shelter, all the same. ‘I like the idea, fully support it, and don’t think I’ll be affected negatively in any way by the refugees’ presence’, he says. Extra efforts from the local government to ensure that the shelter is secure are understandable, he says. ‘I also don’t think that making a functional register of persons, performing background checks or increased security should have any negative political or moral undertone. It is only natural in the current social climate, and I’d expect the same treatment if I myself was a refugee.’

Sophie Watts, a Canadian student in the arts faculty of the RUG and a resident of the Martini House, says that the efforts are admirable. ‘I think that it is wonderful that Groningen is taking in people and I would love to get involved in any way that I can to help this effort. In 30 years, when we look back at this time in human history, I hope that it can be with a sense of pride in our ability to band together in the protection of human life.’