'Living room of shame': Citizens deliver Fedasil furniture to asylum seekers

'Living room of shame': Citizens deliver Fedasil furniture to asylum seekers
Citizens bring furniture, bought from the Fedasil sale, to the squatted public building in Brussels where asylum seekers are staying, Saturday 18 March 2023. Credit: Belga / Gabriel Mitran

A symbolic gesture on Saturday saw around 50 citizens deliver confiscated Fedasil furniture to a building housing asylum seekers. The furniture had been confiscated following Fedasil's failure to pay several fines, with activists having bought the items in an auction.

Starting from the Rue de Louvain, a march to deliver the three armchairs was organised by citizens and members of various asylum seekers’ support committees.

The furniture in question was seized from Fedasil and the office of the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Nicole De Moor before being sold at auction. The items were confiscated due to the Belgian state not paying the fines imposed after more than 7,000 convictions for not fulfilling its duties towards asylum seekers. Citizens, therefore, bought the furniture to take inside the building and create the “living room of shame”.

“What asylum seekers want is to be housed by Fedasil. The state should be ashamed of its management of reception”, said Stephanie, co-organiser of the action. Until now, the asylum seekers had no furniture at all.

Various banners with messages like “Fedasil, stop sleeping, it’s time to act” or “this is not housing” were stuck to the armchairs.

Credit: Belga / Gabriel Mitran

“These people come from far away, where violence is present on a daily basis. The Belgian state has obligations in terms of accommodation,” said Véronique Van Der Plancke, a lawyer at the Brussels bar.” The law is on the side of the asylum seekers, but lately it does not seems so,” she stated.

“Instead of providing reception places for asylum seekers fleeing to Belgium, of finding them safe shelter, the state is allowing the situation to fester to such an extent that its own furniture is being auctioned off in order to pay the fines imposed for the failure to comply with its own laws,” the citizens’ group denounced in a statement.

For nearly a week, 70 asylum seekers have been occupying the building that will be the future federal crisis centre on Boulevard Albert II.

The asylum seekers decided to occupy the space after being evacuated from the so-called Schaerbeek squat in the Palais des Droits, which also followed the dismantling of the camp along the canal and the evacuation of the former Allee Du Kaai squat, near Tour & Taxis, where they had taken refuge.

Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor (CD&V), is not happy about the action.

“Fedasil employees have been working hard for months to find additional reception places. The confiscation of their furniture is bad enough for them. That is why I regret this action. It does not help anyone to move forward,” de Moor reacted. De Moor is also asking asylum seekers sheltering in the building to leave.

“All asylum seekers present can get temporary emergency accommodation in Brussels while waiting for a place at Fedasil. It is incomprehensible that the occupants of the squat are not taking advantage of this offer. Claiming priority at Fedasil will not work at all. The people who have been waiting for a place for the longest will get priortiy,” she said.

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