Decision to stop providing shelter for single men reversed by Council of State

Decision to stop providing shelter for single men reversed by Council of State
A public building squatted by asylum seekers in protest of the reception crisis in 2023. The sign reads 'Accommodation for all'. Credit: Belga / Hatim Kaghat

The Council of State has suspended the implementation of the decision to no longer offer shelter to single male asylum seekers. The decision will change nothing on the ground, however.

State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor announced at the end of August that the country would temporarily stop providing single men who are applying for asylum in Belgium with shelter in the Fedasil network, despite it being a legal entitlement.

She argued that her intention was to anticipate "the growing influx of families and children to ensure that children do not end up on the streets in winter," as was the case in the autumn and winter of 2022. However, the decision was widely condemned by lawyers, NGOs and politicians, who argued that it would likely result in thousands more roaming the streets of Brussels.

Not respecting the right to reception

A number of associations (such as Human Rights League, Cire, Ordre des barreaux francophones, etc.) referred the matter to the administrative court as a matter of urgency. On Wednesday, the Council of State ruled that the decision does not respect the right to reception conferred on all asylum seekers by the law of 12 January 2007.

It specifically stated that the law does not allow the opposing party to deprive a category of asylum seekers, consisting of single men, of the right to reception to resolve the difficulties it claims to be facing" and ordered the immediate execution of the ruling.

The Federal Government argued that it had already been entrusted with the reception of single male asylum seekers by another partner. In its view, they were therefore not exposed to the serious risk invoked by the applicants who took the matter to court.

Sticking to her guns

Marie Doutrepont, a lawyer at Progressive Lawyers Network, told The Brussels Times that this ruling will not change anything, as de Moor had already said that she would not change her mind.

She confirmed this once again on Wednesday following the court's ruling: "No places in surplus. The suspension of the Council of State does not ensure that we suddenly have room for everyone. So my policy will not change: absolute priority goes to families and children," de Moor declared on X (formerly Twitter).

This is not the first time the Federal Government and Fedasil have ignored the law. Both have been convicted thousands of times for already failing to provide shelter to asylum seekers, but have failed to follow the outcomes. They continued to fail to provide asylum seekers with shelter, and have also not paid the fines.

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