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Dutch Group Dumps Asylum-Seekers

November 18, 1998

ARNHEM, Netherlands (AP) _ More than 120 asylum-seekers, most of them from Bosnia and Kosovo, were denied shelter and exposed to near-freezing cold Wednesday after a voluntary group said it could no longer afford to care for them.

As afternoon temperatures dropped to 35 degrees, the refugees sat in buses or huddled around fires outside a camp for political asylum-seekers near the central Dutch city of Nijmegen. Twenty of the refugees are infants.

The refugees’ plight underscored the difficulties this overcrowded nation has had in providing accommodation for asylum-seekers. Dutch efforts reached a crisis point recently when the government had to pitch tents for refugees because all other facilities for them were full.

Through September, 31,466 refugees applied for permission to stay in the Netherlands this year _ a 30 percent increase from the same period a year ago.

Although the camp in Arnhem had 500 free beds, it was not allowed to house the refugees because the government had refused to grant the foreigners asylum. Most of the refugees came from Bosnia and Kosovo, a province in the Yugoslav republic of Serbia.

Because other European Union nations had already rejected their applications for asylum, the refugees have no right to stay in this country.

``We can do no more. Our hands are empty,″ a spokeswoman for the Arnhem group that turned the refugees out told Dutch television news. The spokeswoman, identified only as I. Loeter, said she wanted to alert the public to the refugees’ woes.

Late Wednesday, 110 of the refugees found beds for the night in a Salvation Army hostel. The remaining 13 sought shelter elsewhere.

The Dutch parliament called an emergency session Wednesday night to discuss the matter.

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