Belgium to set up two emergency villages for asylum seekers this winter

Belgium to set up two emergency villages for asylum seekers this winter
A surprise makeshift camp was established at the Flagey square to accommodate asylum seekers and demand emergency solutions. Credit: Belga/Kristof Van Accom

Belgium is looking to set up emergency villages for asylum seekers this winter, as Prime Minister Alexander De Croo is asking his ministers and administrations to take responsibility and provide those requesting international protection with the shelter to which they are legally entitled.

Two locations to set up emergency villages have already been found. A compulsory distribution of asylum seekers among municipalities, as is being urged by the Green ruling parties as well as various organisations on the field, remains out of the question for the authorities.

De Croo is looking at the Defence Ministry, the Buildings Agency and railway company SNCB, among others, as they own a significant amount of real estate. The Walloon Youth Department is also being approached: it can make crisis places available in youth centres, just as Flemish youth centres already do, De Tijd reports.

In this way, the Federal Government – which is still failing to solve the reception crisis and provide shelter for all people seeking refuge in the country – is looking for hundreds of reception places to accommodate people during what is predicted to be another harsh autumn and winter for asylum seekers in Belgium.

Still no distribution plan

In addition to the Flemish youth shelters (which opened their doors to asylum-seeking families in September) and the 500 extra places in the Brussels homeless shelter, two locations for emergency shelter in residential containers have now been confirmed. It has not yet been announced where the containers will be built, but one will reportedly be in Flanders and the other in Wallonia.

However, these additional reception places will likely not be enough to deal with the asylum crisis, which is why De Croo will be meeting De Moor to discuss possible solutions, such as ways to allow asylum seekers to leave reception centres faster, in the coming days.

At the end of August, De Moor announced that Belgium would temporarily stop providing single male asylum seekers with shelter, despite it being a legal entitlement. Several associations took the matter to court.

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The Council of State suspended the implementation of the decision almost three weeks later, arguing that it does not respect the right to reception conferred on all asylum seekers by the law. However, De Moor responded that the suspension of the Council of State "would not ensure that we suddenly have room for everyone," adding that her policy would remain unchanged.

Even now, the Federal Government continues to draw the card of large-scale reception, against the wishes of organisations in the field and the ruling ecologist parties (Groen and Ecolo) who are advocating a distribution plan.

With such a plan, municipalities would be required to receive a certain number of asylum seekers. Despite the fact that the legal framework for this already exists, it is not being applied.

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