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Undocumented migrants in Brussels to end hunger strike

Migrants on hunger strike in the Beguinage church. Credit: Belga

After almost two months, the hunger strike of the more than 400 undocumented migrants in Brussels in a bid to get collective regularisation will come to an end for the time being.

The activists holding a hunger and thirst strike in the Beguinage church in the centre of Brussels have provisionally ceased their action, and from Thursday, they will make their way to the neutral zone which was set up by Secretary of State for Migration Sammy Mahdi as part of his efforts to mitigate the situation.

“We have managed to initiate a number of negotiations at the highest level,” the group l’union des sans papiers pour la Regularisation (USPR) said in a press release on Facebook.

It is not yet clear whether the activists at the VUB and ULB will also end their hunger and thirst strikes, however, a solution is in the making.

“In essence, it’s about giving occupants the opportunity to argue elements of anchor, vulnerability, stay, etc. allowing the issuance of an A permit, via the 9 bis procedure. For the most fragile cases, the possibility of humanitarian protection is also on the table,” the statement read.

The news was also confirmed by Mahdi on his Twitter account.

“Relieved. For me, this was not a fight against people, but for the right policy. Hopefully, no one will be permanently injured by this,” he said.

However, the USPR stressed that this step forward is not enough to guarantee access to legal work, and that “the suspension of the strike does not act the end of the movement.”

“The USPR will continue the fight around the single permit at both regional and federal levels to secure additional guarantees,” it added.

Earlier in the day, there were reports of the situation further escalating, as at least 15 of the undocumented migrants across the three locations in the city – in the Beguinage church in the city centre and on the campus of the VUB and ULB – were being hospitalised per day.

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Mahdi opened the “neutral zone” last week, where the migrants could receive information about existing procedures and their options, however, most activists refused to go to this zone, as they had previously said they would not end the strike before a solution is found for everyone in the group.

The situation resulted in political tension within the government, as on Monday, French-speaking socialist party PS and green party Ecolo threatened to quit the federal government “within the hour” if any one of the activists died, which could have resulted in the current government falling.

On the same day, it was confirmed that the commissioner general at the independent federal administration General Commissioner for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRA), Dirk Van den Bulck, would be the special envoy to guide the activists towards existing procedures in this zone, which may have played a part in coming to a solution.