Over the past few weeks, a series of break-ins and robberies in the international student house in Vondellaan, a street in the south of Groningen, was reported, raising concerns and spreading fear among the residents.
On a Tuesday night, Mireia Antolin Estefania, an exchange student from Spain, went to the kitchen for a glass of milk, only to find her laptop, mobile phone and money missing when she returned to her room. “My door was open and the lights were on,” she says with her voice breaking, barely holding back the tears. “When I saw that all my things were gone I immediately called the police, but they couldn’t do much.”
Her room is cold and there is no mattress on the bed. “I don’t sleep here anymore. I sleep in my friend’s room. I don’t feel safe,” she says.
The incident alarmed the students and made them particularly careful, but locking their door was not enough as David Pauly, a student from Germany, soon found out. On a Saturday night, a little after midnight, David was asleep in his room when he heard a noise coming from his window. “At first I thought it was one of my friends calling me to join them in the basement so I didn’t react” he says, “but then someone broke and opened the window.”
The intruder fled without stealing anything or causing any harm once he saw that David was in the room, but the incident raised questions among the residents concerning the security of the building.
According to the contract between the tenants and the landlord, the latter is supposed to provide a safe environment and constant supervision. Most students noted that the owner of the building is usually impossible to reach. “I’ve been trying to contact him for a week” says Mireia, “he didn’t care about me, he didn’t ask if I’m ok or what happened. When I complained about the lack of security, he said that I am lucky to have a room at all.”
With the housing crisis in Groningen leaving over 300 students homeless by the beginning of the academic year, it is no wonder that many students find it hard to demand better living conditions once they finally find accommodation.
In fact, in Vondellaan, half of the building is still under construction, the internet connection is weak and the security of the building non-existent. “It’s still better than sleeping in tents,” notes David, “but the landlord is earning a lot of money through us, he should be able to do something”.