House rules and disciplinary measures

To keep reception centres safe and pleasant to live in, we have house rules which asylum seekers must follow in all reception centres. What if asylum seekers don't respect their fellow residents or COA staff, or breach the house rules in any other way? Then we take disciplinary measures. We always report criminal behaviour to the police. Together with our partners in the administrative law and criminal system, we take disciplinary measures against people who cause a nuisance.

Information about safety

The COA gives information about dangers in and around the reception centre to prevent accidents. In the Living in a COA centre programme, we talk about things like fire, swimming, traffic, tick bites and poisonous mushrooms. We also discuss Section 1 of the Constitution. On MyCOA, residents can read the information once again. Moreover, we disseminate information material together with our partners, for example through posters about the Constitution, or videos about swimming safely.  

Emergency response team: always there in the reception centre

Any time of day, there are enough certified members of the company emergency response team (bhv'ers) in a reception centre. Each reception centre has an emergency response plan, which prescribes how staff must act in case of an emergency. And it makes agreements about this with the municipality and local emergency services.

Fire safety

The reception centres meet the legal requirements for fire safety. For instance, there are fire extinguishers and smoke alarms in all living units and other rooms. Residents and staff are given information about fire safety: what are the risks of fire and how can you detect or prevent fire. Many reception centres organise fire prevention days together with the local fire brigade. 

  • Kinderen in het azc staan bij een brandweerauto en krijgen voorlichting
    © COA

Swimming safely and swimming lessons

The Netherlands is a true water country. It is very important for the COA that residents of the centre and former residents in the municipalities swim safely. By informing them about the dangers of water and providing swimming lessons, the COA guides residents towards a safe life in the water-rich country that the Netherlands is.

Empowerment training

It is important for asylum seekers to defend themselves and indicate their boundaries. That is why some residents are benefitted by following an empowerment training. For example vulnerable groups such as children, women, unaccompanied young people and LGBTIQ+s. For adults, the training programme is part of the programme on living in a COA centre.

Domestic violence and child abuse

The Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Obligatory Reporting Code Act also applies to COA staff. The reporting code helps staff when they suspect domestic violence or child abuse. By means of a 5-step plan, they determine whether they must make a report to Veilig Thuis, the official assistance agency in cases of domestic violence, and whether they are able to provide adequate assistance themselves.

Every reception centre has at least 2 'focus officers for domestic violence and child abuse'. These COA employees have had training. They collect all signals people receive in the reception centre: colleagues, Trigion security guards, residents, volunteers, partners. When domestic violence or child abuse is suspected, they go and talk to the victims and organisations such as schools and the GP.

If necessary, they make a report to Veilig Thuis. Veilig Thuis will then see what is necessary to restore safety and deploys assistance.

  • Kind staat alleen in een gang van het azc
    © Kick Smeets

Human smuggling and trafficking

Asylum seekers may fall victim to human trafficking or smuggling in the country of origin and during their journey. They may even become victims of trafficking during their stay in the Netherlands. For that reason, the COA trains employees to recognise and report signs of human trafficking and smuggling. There is also a 'human trafficking and smuggling contact person' in each reception location. This is a local knowledge carrier who acts as the internal and external point of contact.

The COA reports signals to the National Aliens Information Exchange (NVIK) and the Information Hub (IKP) of KMar. Single young people are especially vulnerable. If there are signs of human trafficking or smuggling, we can put young people in the protected shelter locations.

Radicalisation and jihadism

COA staff can have training to recognise signals of radicalisation and jihadism. They report suspicions of radicalisation and jihadism in residents to the Security Office of the COA. These could be signals of alienation, openly threatening 'the enemy', or an us-them narrative. The Security Office of the COA shares all signals with the IND and the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD).