'They told us they had no room': Belgium's Ukraine refugees sleeping rough

'They told us they had no room': Belgium's Ukraine refugees sleeping rough
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In contrast to the uncomfortable conditions often faced by refugees from other countries (many of whom have been forced to sleep on the street), Ukrainian refugees have been generally well-treated by Belgium's government and civil society.

According to a recent report by De Morgen, however, even those fleeing Russia's war are finding it increasingly difficult to find shelter. De Morgen's report tells the story of Nadia, who arrived in Belgium after driving 1,800 km from Western Ukraine on Tuesday night with her husband and two small children.

“We registered for temporary protection and because we do not know anyone in Belgium who can take us in, we registered with Fedasil and the Red Cross," Nadia explained. "But they said there was no more room.”

A depressingly familiar story

After spending their first night in Belgium in the car, the family drove to Halle, near Brussels. After initially being denied accommodation at the city's refugee centre owing to a lack of available beds, the family was eventually able to find shelter through the help of a local church group.

The De Morgen report also told the story of an unnamed Ukrainian family with three young children who were unable to find refugee accommodation in Ghent, despite being in possession of documentation proving their Ukrainian identities and, hence, protected persons under the EU's Temporary Protection Directive (TPI). The family was forced to use up the last of their savings to stay at one the city's hotels.

“The city of Ghent could not accommodate any extra people, not even in night shelters,” says Evelyne Huughe of Een Hart voor Vluchtelingen ('A Heart for Refugees'), a refugee aid organisation.

After using up their money, the family was able to stay for one night at a volunteer's residence in the city, before suitable accommodation was finally found for them in Lochristi, a municipality in East Flanders.

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Such stories are becoming increasingly familiar to Ukrainian refugees throughout Europe. Indeed, last Friday the Irish Minister for Integration, Roderic O’Gorman, admitted that he "could not rule out" asylum seekers in the country being forced to sleep on the streets — including those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Since Russia's invasion, approximately 10 million Ukrainians have fled the country, a huge number of whom have ended up in Poland and, somewhat ironically, Russia.

By the end of this year, Belgium expects to be hosting approximately 83,000 Ukrainian refugees — 5,000 more than there are currently in the country.

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