Since January, Fedasil, Belgium’s Federal Asylum agency, has lost 740 legal cases concerning unfair refusal or delays in providing shelter to refugees, according to Flemish newspaper De Standaard.
Due to the lengthy waiting list for asylum seekers, the Vluchtelingenwerk (Flemish Refugee Council) routinely goes to court to challenge the decisions made by the Federal government.
Despite the clear issues posed by the waiting list, which is regularly overruled in court, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi states that they do not intend to get rid of it.
“For several weeks now, many single men who presented themselves for asylum have ended up on a waiting list,” Fedasil told De Standaard. “They have to wait until there is shelter and they are called.”
The waiting list system is intended to reserve places for the most vulnerable asylum seekers, notably those with families and first-time asylum applicants. There are currently 17,000 cases, or 20,000 asylum seekers, currently awaiting a decision on their refugee status, meaning that few leave their places in refugee reception centres.
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The vast majority of asylum seekers on waiting lists, Mahdi states, are “transit asylum seekers, and people who have previously submitted an asylum application in another European country or even received recognition there.”
As highlighted by Vluchtelingenwerk, Belgium is obligated to provide some form of reception to all asylum seekers for “at least the duration of the procedure.” The Belgium government and Fedasil have lost several lawsuits regarding the country’s obligation to provide international protection.
Vluchtelingenwerk warns that it is being overloaded with requests from those refused accommodation. Similarly, the French-speaking Brussels Labour Court is struggling to deal with the increasing burden of complaints levelled against the government.
Brussels, and other major Belgian cities, regularly find themselves with no spaces available to offer to asylum seekers.
The European Asylum Office launched an operation to assist Belgium, which has been struggling to accommodate a growing wave of asylum seekers, many of whom have resorted to sleeping rough on the streets.