From Monday, Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion can now register their presence in Belgium and apply for protection at Palace 8 at the Brussels Exhibition Centre in Heysel.
Ukrainian refugees can register to receive “temporary protection” which gives them the right to remain in the country and access the Belgian labour market.
It is hoped that the new centre will be better prepared to welcome large numbers of refugees. Previously, all registration was carried out on the site of the former Jules Bordet institute in central Brussels, which closed its doors on Sunday evening.
Belgium’s Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil) quickly became overwhelmed by the flow of asylum seekers entering the country. Asylum seekers previously faced long queues – sometimes overnight – in order to register for government support.
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According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Russia's war in Ukraine has forced 2.7 million people to leave the country. Some 1.68 million Ukrainians have entered Poland.
Demand for temporary protection in Belgium is growing. On Sunday alone, 658 Ukrainian successfully applied for protected status, according to spokesperson for the Foreigner’s Office Dominique Ernould.
Since the opening of the refugee welcome centre, 6,048 Ukrainians have registered in Belgium, of which 2,059 have stated that they need accommodation.