Temporary migration solution hits hurdle as municipality does not want to cooperate
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    Temporary migration solution hits hurdle as municipality does not want to cooperate

    In 2016, Koksijde temporarily housed 300 people in several empty buildings of the airbase before, but does not want to do it again. Credit: Belga

    The Federal Minister for Asylum and Migration, Maggie De Block, has asked the coastal municipality of Koksijde in the West Flanders province to temporarily receive 400 asylum seekers, but the municipality does not want to.

    Due to a lack of places to receive asylum seekers across Belgium, the Minister for Asylum and Migration asked Koksijde to temporarily take care of 400 people, as the municipality had done the same thing before. In 2016, Koksijde temporarily housed 300 people in several empty buildings of the airbase before. De Block has now asked the municipality to do so again, for 400 people this time.

    “Because it takes too long for the files to be processed, there is overcapacity in other reception centres in Belgium. As a result, new ones have to be opened,” said Marc Vanden Bussche, the mayor of Koksijde, to VRT. However, this time, the municipality does not want to help the Ministry again.

    The asylum seekers that would be placed in Koksijde, are now being housed in Bredene, another coastal municipality closeby.

    “Let me be clear: it has nothing to do with humanitarian reasons. We understand very well that there is a reception problem. But we would have a big security problem if we would do this,” said Vanden Bussche.

    “First of all, the arrival of 400 asylum seekers brings a lot of additional work for administrative staff and mostly for the police. And they already have so much work. You must not forget that the police are still understaffed, and we do not see it happening that they could free up extra people,” he added.

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    “Additionally, we notice that there is a very large increase in migrants in transit in the region. This week no less than 35 people were taken off the tram. We are also close to the border with France. It seems like we would only be tempting them,” he added.

    “Brexit is getting closer too, which involves a lot of extra work. Koksijde is also right on the smuggling route between Zeebrugge and Calais. A final reason, albeit rather incidental at the moment, is that a reconversion of the airbase is planned, and the municipality has plans to purchase the building where the asylum seekers would be staying and to convert it into a building for the technical service,” Vanden Bussche said, reports De Standaard.

    Vanden Bussche does not want the same problems from 2016 to occur again. “That nine-month period may have gone well on a humanitarian level, but there were still problems. In spite of the screenings, there were still smugglers and wanted people among the asylum seekers,” he said.

    “We understand the question for asylum, and we will continue to try and find a solution after New Year’s, but at the moment it is 100% negative for us. It is a pity that the plan to spread the reception of the asylum seekers over every municipality never came to be,” Vanden Bussche added.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times