Council of Europe urges Belgian asylum secretary to solve reception crisis

Council of Europe urges Belgian asylum secretary to solve reception crisis
State Secretary de Moor to the humanitarian emergency shelter in Jabbeke (West Flanders), Monday 19 December 2022. Last week, the first 25 asylum seekers arrived in the new humanitarian emergency shelter. Asylum seekers are housed there for a short time while waiting for a place in an ordinary reception centre. Credit: Belga / Kurt Desplenter

The Commissioner of Human Rights at the Council of Europe expressed concern on Wednesday over the tough conditions for asylum seekers in Belgium through a letter to the Federal State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor.

Commissioner Dunja Mijatović highlighted the continued "lack of accommodation" for asylum seekers and the slow process for handling their applications. These issues have "serious consequences for the human rights of asylum seekers, including their right to health and their access to shelter and other basic needs."

In her letter, Mijatović added that she "welcomes" the government's move to open more reception facilities but stressed that the intervention is not enough "for the scale and complexity of the existing needs."

Inadequate measures

Fedasil is struggling with the hundreds of people who every morning seek asylum in Belgium. The overwhelmed centre has been unable to accommodate the asylum requests, forcing asylum seekers to sleep on the streets during the cold winter months.

The crisis has come to the point that even Ukrainian refugees, who have been granted special status in Europe, are now also sleeping outside in freezing temperatures. Many sleep outside the Gard du Midi station.

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"The figure we get from the Red Cross is that on average, every day, there are a hundred Ukrainians who arrive here at the Midi station," Magali Pratte from Samusocial Brussels told Euronews.

"And out of 100 people, there are about forty or fifty who really need accommodation, who have no solution on their own. And of these 40 people, there are 20 people who are very vulnerable, with children or pregnant women, disabled people, or sick people. But who are now told that there is no more accommodation space left. And so people keep leaving and coming back, leaving, coming back again. That’s how things are these days."

Delays in implementing decisions

Asylum seekers and migrants have taken to occupying empty buildings in desperation. 200 people gathered in one building but that figure increased to 600 within a few days, according to Euronews.

In her letter, Commissioner Mijatović pointed to the 4,500 cases which Fedasil, and through Fedasil the Belgian state, was charged with for not offering reception to asylum seekers.

She in particular honed in on the "considerable delays in implementing those (judicial) decisions", asking De Moor to "inform her about the steps that the Belgian authorities intend to take to solve the above problems."

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