A new holding facility for isolated women awaiting deportation was on Tuesday inaugurated in the outskirts of Leuven, in accordance with a 2014 agreement to bolster migrant return policies in Belgium. The detention facility, located in an industrial area of Holsbeek municipality, is the first holding centre specially destined to migrant women in Belgium, the country’s building authority said in a statement.
Women in irregular migratory situations had up until then been held in centres in Bruges and Steenokkerzeel, in shared bedrooms holding up to four other people.
The new detention facility is housed in a former Formula 1 hotel and consists of 50 rooms with their own bathroom, television and a bunk-bed. Each room will hold up to two women.
Justice and migration ministers Koen Geens and Maggie De Block attended the inauguration and said the new centre aimed to house migrants awaiting deportation in more “humane” conditions.
“Those who have no claim to asylum must leave the country,” De Block said, adding that she favoured the principle of migrants leaving voluntarily, but would resort to expulsion if necessary.
“In the case of forced departures, we will be strict but remain humane,” she said.
A protest against the inaguration of the centre was on Tuesday organized by an activit group, who say it represents a policy which criminalizes migration.
The Holsbeek detention centre, which will be operated by the national Foreigners Office, is part of the federal government’s 2017 Holding Center Masterplan, which aims to open additional facilities and augment the holding capacity of existing ones.