Belgium launches company grants to employ asylum seekers

Belgium launches company grants to employ asylum seekers
Asylum seeker who joined a project offering training at a vacation park in Wallonia. Credit: Belga/ Benoit Doppagne

Fedasil, Belgium's Agency for Asylum Reception, has launched a project call through which it will offer grants to organisations and companies that employ asylum seekers.

The project call builds on the action plan to activate asylum seekers on the labour market and was launched at the request of State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor. She has repeatedly come under fire for her mismanagement of the reception crisis in Belgium, which has resulted in thousands of asylum seekers not receiving the shelter they are legally entitled to.

De Moor is now looking to tackle this issue, in part by shifting the responsibility onto employers who will be involved via the project call and are asked to offer accommodation to asylum seekers who are working with them.

"Getting asylum seekers to work is a win-win situation for those involved and for companies that are short of hands," she said. "In addition, we encourage innovation, such as the provision of quality housing for asylum seekers by companies that employ them." It is hoped this could lower the threshold for employment, as asylum reception centres are rarely located close to potential workplaces.

Gaining independence

The programme will provide funding to projects that focus on the "activation and participation" of asylum seekers staying in the Fedasil reception network. Last year, some 10,000 asylum seekers in the process of applying for protection were working both for short and longer periods of time in sectors suffering staff shortages, including construction or the healthcare sector.

Guidance pathways to work are also running in several asylum centres, but not everywhere with the same intensity. With the call for projects, De Moor wants to fill the gaps and provide additional support.

She explained that, by working, asylum seekers can gain experience and learn the official Belgian languages. "Moreover, they become less financially dependent. If they are recognised as refugees, they are thus already many steps further in their integration," De Moor said. "And if they are not granted asylum and have to return to their country of origin, this work experience will come in handy there too."

Aside from a focus on "innovative forms of co-habitation" and providing links between housing and employment for asylum seekers, Fedasil's priority when allocating grants will also be given to projects concerning support for employment in the reception network, and job placement via the temporary employment sector.

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De Moor argued that many asylum seekers are already employed in that sector, yet some temp agencies are not yet familiar with the profile of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers, in turn, are often unfamiliar with the concept of temporary work.

The projects should also focus on childcare and participation in social life. The deadline for submitting projects is 30 September 2023.

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