An extra reception centre for asylum seekers in Belgium is opening in the closed Hotel Mercure in the Brussels neighbourhood of Evere.
The existing centre at Klein Kasteeltje (Le Petit-Château) has been overwhelmed for months and now people have been sleeping on the streets of Brussels to avoid losing their place in the line to apply for asylum, reports Bruzz.
State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi (CD&V) said on Wednesday evening that the new reception centre at Mercure Hotel could accommodate 480 people, though the municipality put that number around 120.
“We are making every effort to create additional shelter capacity,” Mahdi said. “Last month I created 1,000 places, this week another 400 and next week another 400.”
But volunteers at the existing Brussels centre say that they’ve been begging for additional capacity for years and that as recently as Tuesday there was no place for 9 minors, who were left on the streets again.
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The centre at Mercure Hotel will be run by the Red Cross and open on 24 December for a period of one year “to avoid people having to sleep on the streets again during the Christmas period,” Mahdi explained. “After being used by Fedasil, the building will be demolished to build a new housing project.”
Mayor of Evere Ridouane Chahid (PS) said the asylum seekers are welcome in the neighbourhood. “We are in favour of all measures that prevent people from having to sleep on the streets,” Shahid said. “They are welcome here.”