A platform for Ukrainian refugees in the Netherlands

29 March 2022 4 min. read

As refugees from the war in Ukraine continue to enter the Netherlands, the Dutch Council for Refugees has teamed up with consulting firm SparkOptimus to launch an online hub to help accommodate those arriving. will serve as a starting point for refugees and anyone who wants to help them.

With more than 3 million people having fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February, efforts across Europe are being made to provide them with a safe haven. While the majority have ended up in Poland and other nearby countries such as Romania, Moldova and Hungary, some travel on to Western Europe, including the Netherlands.

No one knows exactly how many Ukrainian refugees are currently in the Netherlands, but reportedly there are already more than 12,000, and the number grows by the hour. A platform for Ukrainian refugees in the Netherlands

Amsterdam broadcaster AT5 recently reported that currently around 700 Ukrainian refugees arrive at Amsterdam Centraal each day, with railway operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen expecting this figure to continue to rise over the course of March. In total, the government expects to receive around 50,000 Ukrainian refugees.

New refugee centres are popping up across the country, as municipalities work to increase their capacity for those fleeing the war leveraging capacity in cruise ships, holiday parks, hotels, and more.

For example, the RAI convention centre in Amsterdam has been turned into a registration centre to help refugees find shelter in the Dutch capital. Meanwhile, various hotels, including the Holiday Inn and Savoy Hotel in Amsterdam, are helping to accommodate around 900 refugees, but the municipality says “the search for additional reception locations continues.”

In a bid to support these efforts, the Dutch Council for Refugees has launched a digital platform to help make settling easier for refugees and those volunteering to support them.

In the middle of the chaotic situation, it is very difficult for these refugees to figure out where to turn for help. On the platform, visitors can indicate what they need help with – shelter, health care or food, for example – and based on the stated need, the site shows which initiatives and organisations refugees can turn to. Information is provided in Ukrainian, Russian, Dutch and English.


To bring the portal to life, the Dutch Council for Refugees partnered with SparkOptimus, a digital strategy consultancy that works with the likes of multinationals Nestlé, Nike and Ikea.

Together with VluchtelingenWerk Nederland, the consultancy developed the website; a process that also involved collaboration with other “leading digital parties” and various organisations and government bodies. As finding relevant information is all the more difficult in this case, because different rules apply to Ukrainians from previous refugee crises, SparkOptimus set about designing the platform entirely from the perspective of the refugees.

To this end, SparkOptimus conducted interviews and work sessions to help with development. What quickly emerged was that the platform would need to primarily be developed for mobile telephones, as the refugees have much easier access to these than laptops or other devices.

A release from SparkOptimus further explained, “We believe that this platform offers a number of clear benefits. One accessible and transparent overview of initiatives for both refugees and volunteers. Lots of relevant information from all parties, so that fewer questions arise on the supply and demand side. Less pressure on the organisations involved. More transparency about what refugees need and where bottlenecks are.”

Into the future

At the same time, its creators are looking further ahead than the current refugee crisis, with the platform positioned to meet the future influxes of refugees from all over the world.

“Initially the focus is on Ukrainian refugees, but later this will of course be expanded to a platform that can also be used for refugees from other countries,” the consultancy stated. “The goal was to get a first version live as soon as possible given the high urgency, but also to create a sustainable organisation that can realise a continuous series of improvements in the coming months and years.”

A report by the Dutch justice ministry’s research department, WODC, found the Netherlands has one of the toughest refugee policies within Europe. It claimed refugees were less likely to be given a residency permit in the Netherlands than in Germany, Belgium or Sweden.