Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, primate of the Catholic Church in Belgium, has issued a call for ‘humanity’ from those involved in talks with the hunger strikers currently occupying the Beguinage church in Brussels.
The hunger strikers are undocumented migrants, commonly referred to as sans-papiers. Their numbers regularly congregate in the church in central Brussels, which takes its duty of refuge seriously. Since 23 May, however, a group of around 200 have been on hunger strike, and their condition is rapidly deteriorating.
At the latest report, those inside the church are now refusing all but medical care and water, which is delivered with the addition of electrolytes by the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.
Another 200 hunger strikers are also camped on the campuses of the two Brussels universities, VUB and ULB.
The aim of the group is to obtain from the federal government a collective regularisation of their status. But Sammy Mahdi (CD&V), secretary of state for asylum and migration, has outright refused to contemplate that option, and prime minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) even stepped in to back that view.
In his statement this weekend, Cardinal De Kesel said he had understanding for the difficult position the political representatives find themselves, but called for humanity on their part.
“No matter how illegally people may reside in our country, they are people. People in need, people who appeal to our understanding and compassion,” he said.
And he said he was satisfied at reports yesterday that talks between the government and the USPR, the group that represents the sans-papiers, had shown ‘progress’. Those talks will continue.