Belgium in Brief: The faces of war

Belgium in Brief: The faces of war
Credit: Belga

Today the UN High Commissioner for Refugees made the grave announcement that the official number of Ukrainian citizens that have fled the afflicted country now surpasses two million. For many, escape has been rendered impossible with Russian forces ignoring agreed civilian corridors and continuing their heavy shelling, making the journey away from their homeland a death mission for some residents.

Yet this number will only grow as the war continues, posing massive challenges to the infrastructure of receiving countries who have committed to granting refugees automatic asylum but in many cases, lack the capacity to welcome the dispossessed asylum seekers.

This is already the case in Belgium, where large numbers of displaced Ukrainians have overwhelmed reception centres, having no choice but to wait hours on end in the hope that they will receive shelter. Whilst EU states were quick to grant unconditional asylum to the refugees, the gap between good intentions and living up to them has become clear.

Belgium was already struggling to process asylum seekers who arrived before the Ukraine conflict exploded on 24 February. Many are sceptical about whether it can handle this new influx and have turned to citizens organisations rather than wait indefinitely on state provision.

For even the most empathetic, it is difficult to comprehend the scale of human catastrophe without bearing personal witness to it. Now, with victims of a war-torn country seeking protection in Belgium, the faces of war become increasingly visible, as does their plight.

Have you been affected by the war? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

1. Russia includes Belgium in new list of ‘unfriendly’ countries

The Russian Government has approved a list of all “unfriendly countries” that imposed or joined the sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, reports the Russian news agency TASS. Read more.

2. Thousands of Ukrainians reach Belgium, reception centres overwhelmed

Hundreds of Ukrainians waited in line on Monday at a registration centre in the former Jules Bordet hospital on Brussels’ Boulevard de Waterloo Avenue, seeking to register their presence and receive government support. Read more.

3. More and more Belgians cannot pay their energy bills

More and more Belgians are having difficulty paying their energy bills amid soaring prices for gas and electricity, according to figures from FEBEG, the Federation of Belgian Electricity and Gas Companies. Read more.

4. Brussels metro struggles to keep up with proliferation of graffiti

Brussels transit company STIB reported 850 acts of vandalism on its metro trains in 2021, compared to 563 in 2020 and 430 in 2019. Read more.

5. Belgian care homes linked to increased mortality, study suggests

A report by leading researchers from across Belgium and published in La Libre newspaper shows that those entering Belgian care homes have a 50% greater chance of dying within two years compared to those who stay at home. Read more.

6. Flanders refuses applications from Russian students

Russian students who apply for a study grant in Flanders will not get one, as Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts excluded Russia from the ‘Mastermind’ scholarship programme at the request of his Ukrainian colleague Serhiy Shkarlet. Read more.

7. Hidden Belgium: A space for contemporary art

Named after its address (Zuivelmarkt 33), art space Z33 in Hasselt exhibits works by international designers and artists in a modernist exhibition hall dating from 1958. Read more.

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