Belgium's reception centres are failing to cope to provide shelter to asylum seekers, with the result that Fedasil, the agency that regulates the asylum reception, has been convicted at least 1,216 times since this year.
For almost nine months, asylum seekers – sometimes numbering more than 100 – have been forced to sleep on the streets due to the lack of space in existing reception centres. Unable to deliver on its legal requirement to offer shelter to people seeking protection in Belgium, Fedasil has received an average of six convictions per day.
Recent pictures shared on social media show asylum seekers in front of Fedasil's Klein Kasteeltje reception centre, illustrating how the long waiting lists introduced by the government are resulting in people sleeping on the streets.
"This is only one side of the Klein Kasteeltje. Both at the back and the front, there are also rows of people who spend the night there. These are all people who have applied for asylum and are entitled to a place of refuge," Thomas Willekens, one policy officer at Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen (Refugee Council Flanders), wrote on Twitter.
Cost of neglect
Despite the fact that a court condemned the reception system again this January and ordered the Federal Government to pay €5,000 for each working day that at least one person is not given a place to stay, the situation remains unimproved.
This is also resulting in the cost of the settlements that have to be made by the government rising. However, the Federal Government has appealed the penalties with the cabinet of State Secretary for Migration Nicole de Moor (CD&V) stating: "the current policy is to avoid penalty payments at all costs."
- Over 16,000 asylum applicants still without a response
- Long queue of asylum seekers outside Brussels reception centre on Monday
Fedasil spokesperson Benoit Mansy confirmed the number of convictions to Het Laatste Nieuws, a figure that is rising every day, as there is no immediate solution to the shortage of space. A new reception centre with 750 additional places was expected to open in Antwerp this week but won't receive people until next week, partly due to staff shortages.
Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS), Dirk Van den Bulck, says that the situation will get worse as migration in Europe is increasing again. Belgium, in particular, is more popular among asylum seekers than other EU countries, despite its failure in providing shelter to those who are entitled to it.