'Colossal challenge': How Brussels plans to host up to 12,000 refugees

'Colossal challenge': How Brussels plans to host up to 12,000 refugees
Credit: Belga

Every day, 200 to 400 refugees from Ukraine register for temporary protection in Belgium. Of the more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees that arrived in Belgium, 16% have chosen to settle in the country's capital.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, more than 8 million refugees have left the war-torn country in search of safety, according to the United Nations.

While Flanders is currently counting on its citizens to host the Ukrainians, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, Rudi Vervoort, has promised to free up 3,600 places for refugees from the eastern European country by autumn, Le Soir reports.

At the start of the war, the Federal Government agreed on around 10% of the refugees being hosted by Brussels, though Vervoort said they were prepared for a higher number nonetheless.

“Cities, including Brussels, are the places where migratory flows are concentrated since there is everything a refugee is entitled to expect from a host country. As a result, we have become experts in managing these situations.”

12,000 places

Brussels Ukraine Coordinator, Pierre Verbeeren, is in charge of finding the 12,000 reception places to house the Ukrainians. While some manage to find accommodation through the private rental market, the majority of Ukrainians still have to rely on the solidarity of citizens.

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The Brussels coordinator estimates that two-thirds of the refugees are welcomed via the network of Ukrainians, depending on families, friends and colleagues. Another third is hosted by Belgian citizens who opened their doors to families fleeing the war.

Help Ukraine platform

The municipalities are also intervening, as the helpukraine.brussels platform where hosts can register has been launched in four municipalities and will soon be extended to all the others.

Hosts are asked to commit for a period of three months, in exchange for a €150 charge per person to cover bills. If other “services” such as food or car rides are offered, that sum may be increased a little.

“We heard that it was sometimes complicated for certain citizens,” said Verbeeren. “We want to let them known that they are not alone.” In addition to financial aid, hosting citizens can now call 0800/40.4000 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings if they have any questions.

Offices, hotels and retirement homes

The Brussels Region will also focus on transforming ten office buildings into collective accommodation, where Ukrainians will also be asked to pay €150 to contribute to the funding of the Region.

In addition, a dozen infrastructures such as hotels, boarding schools and retirement homes will be able to accommodate up to 1,500 refugees, in exchange for €225 per person per month.

In total, offices and infrastructure combined will represent 3,000 structural places which should be available by the beginning of autumn.

“Modular housing units” have also been ordered to be dispatched across various sites in the region, though this remains a pilot project at this stage. Meanwhile, hotels have agreed to offer rooms at a minimum rate for periods of a maximum of 15 days.

The Region has provided a total budget of €100 million to manage the reception of Ukrainians. However, as Vervoort said, "it remains a colossal challenge.”

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