Asylum seeker going into labour turned away by Brussels hospital

Asylum seeker going into labour turned away by Brussels hospital
Credit: Hatim Kaghat/Belga.

Staff at the UZ Jette hospital turned away a heavily pregnant asylum seeker on 19 October, despite the fact that her waters had just broken. According to Flemish newspaper De Standaard, she was denied care as she did not have health insurance, a problem that many asylum seekers face in Belgium.

The 23-year-old woman, who fled Mauritania with her husband and two-year-old child, came to Belgium out of fear that her daughter would be forced to undergo female genital mutilation in her home country. 

Having stayed in Brussels towards the final months of her pregnancy, she decided to head to the nearby UZ Jette hospital once her contractions started. Yet the woman was denied care and was told by staff that she would only be seen by a doctor if she paid them €2,000 in cash to compensate for her lack of health insurance.

"Then everything flashed through my mind," she told De Standaard, "I would give birth on the street, or in the car I had come with. Maybe my baby was going to die."

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As a result, she frantically decided to go to the Brugmann Hospital, where she managed to give birth without any complications, "no questions asked." Since the incident, UZ Jette has confirmed that the staff member responsible for turning her away has been penalised.

Nonetheless, this incident serves as an example of the human consequences of Belgium's ongoing asylum crisis, with Thomas Willekens urging Fedasil to do more on their end to prevent such events from occurring in the future.

Willekens, a representative for Refugee Work Flanders, told The Brussels Times that the federal agency must continue "respecting the right to shelter." Furthermore, he asked that Fedasil "sensitise medical care providers" to the challenges facing asylum seekers in Belgium.

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