Uncertain future for students living in former refugee centre

International students living in a former refugee centre in Groningen have complained of disruption to their studies, inadequate living conditions and uncertainty regarding their future.

Ninety students are currently housed in a former refugee centre in Groningen. The facility has been repurposed as temporary student accommodation following protests about the lack of affordable housing for international students.

The stress of living in the former refugee centre, coupled with the fear of having nowhere to live in a few weeks,  almost forced one student to abandon his studies and return home.

“I’m angry and frustrated and have no idea what I’m going to do after October,” Ilyas Aaqaoui, a marketing student from Morocco, told The Scoop. “I felt like it was not worth the stress,” added Aaqaoui, who has spent two weeks in the emergency accommodation.

During a recent debate to discuss the issue of housing for international students, municipality alderman Roeland van der Schaaf described the lack of affordable housing as “bad for the image of Groningen as an academic city.”

Carlo Pepe, a 21-year-old physics student from Turin, has been living in the temporary accommodation for two weeks. He spoke of his frustration at unreliable internet access, a 30-minute cycle to his classes at the Zernike campus and neglecting his university studies.

“During my first two weeks I’ve been more focused on searching for accommodation than preparing for tests or doing my assignments,” Pepe told The Scoop. “The uncertainty of not knowing where I’m going to be living is certainly affecting my studies,” he added.

The University of Groningen has assured students that they can remain in the accommodation, which costs 16 euros per night, until the end of October.  However, their fate thereafter remains unclear.

“Nobody has told us what is going to happen,” said Pepe.

Students who moved to the building at the start of September found the facilities to be unsatisfactory.

“In the beginning there was no internet and no kitchen facilities, so in addition to paying 480 euros per month I was having to eat out,” said Aaqaoui. “At least now we have a kitchen but the internet is terrible so I must complete all of my coursework at the library,” he added.

The students feel that living in temporary accommodation has made the stressful transition from one country to another even harder.

“I’ve been very upset and angry,” said Yule Bincov, an International Business Management student from Moldova. “This is meant to be an exciting time but living like this is not a good way to start your independent adult life,” she added.

The accommodation is owned by a private landlord and rented to the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. The universities then sub-let the rooms to students who have failed to secure permanent housing.

University of Groningen spokesperson Jorien Bekker told The Scoop that there are no plans to keep the facility open indefinitely, although students may be able to remain beyond October if they are still unable to find accommodation.

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