Defence Ministry opens 750 places in military barracks for asylum seekers

Defence Ministry opens 750 places in military barracks for asylum seekers
Credit: Belga / Virgine Lefour

An additional 750 emergency places will be made available to asylum seekers in former military barracks in the Antwerp municipality of Berlaar.

In the past month, the Federal Government and its former State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi have come under fire for their handling of asylum seeker reception centres

Fedasil has even reported a rise in the number of suicide attempts in these facilities owing to overcrowding.

What's been agreed?

As a result, the government agreed to take steps to relieve the overburdened asylum system. The Defence Department will provide 750 emergency places in Berlaar in different military barracks and, in the long term, 750 places will be made available in temporary container villages. However, it is unknown whether this planned container village will also be built in the Antwerp municipality.

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Furthermore, a reception centre in Zaventem, the so-called "Dublin" centre, will be able to hold 220 places for asylum seekers. These individuals are registered elsewhere in the European Union and must return there to have their applications processed under European rules.

Baptism of fire for de Moor

This is the first major action of newly elected State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor.

Her predecessor Sammy Mahdi, who was just become the new CD&V leader, was heavily criticised for his handling of the asylum network in recent weeks.

He was even found to have consistently violated asylum seekers’ right to reception by the French-speaking Brussels Labour Court, before the case was dismissed.

Now, de Moor appears to have found a solution to this over saturation: extra emergency accommodation.

She told Flemish paper De Tijd that "we are working hard on all solutions." Adding that "not only on reception but also return to other EU countries, including the centre in Zaventem, and better outflow from the reception network."

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