Human rights institutions sound the alarm on asylum seekers' rights in Belgium

Eight human rights institutions have sounded the alarm on the situation of asylum seekers in Belgium in a letter sent to the rapporteurs and representatives of various European institutions and the United Nations.

The letter was co-signed by the Myria Federal Center, Federal Institute for Human Rights, Federal Ombudsman, Unia, Institute for the Equality of Women and Men, General Delegate for Children's Rights, Kinderrechtencommissariaat and Interfederal Service for Combating Poverty.

It was sent to the UN Special Rapporteurs, European Commission, European Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council of Europe's Special Representative on Migration and Refugees.

In their letter, the institutions point out that the courts have already condemned the State of Belgium on more than 7,000 occasions, and that the Council of State recently suspended a Federal Government decision to stop offering reception to single men.

These condemnations and suspension "are being ignored by the Belgian government," the signatories denounced.

They pointed to the decision by Nicole De Moor, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, to end the reception of single men, and the urgency of the situation of asylum seekers as the trigger for their letter to the international institutions.

"It's a point of no return. The situation is deteriorating rapidly," said the Federal Institute for Human Rights.

The organisations add that, in their view, "this behaviour" on the part of the federal government "undermines the principles of rule of law and may have consequences, not only in the field of asylum and migration, but also for rule of law and democracy in Belgium."

The signatories call on the international authorities to "put an immediate end to this situation," and invite them to visit Belgium to "observe these human rights violations on the ground."

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This is not the first time that international institutions have been invited to examine potential human rights violations in Belgium.

In 2021, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Olivier De Schutter, who is also a law professor at UCLouvain, visited the Béguinage church in Brussels, where some 500 undocumented migrants had set up camp for almost two months to demand their regularisation.

At the time, the Special Rapporteur noted the "appalling" living conditions of the migrants there, and the legal vacuum that prevented them from obtaining papers. He also asked then Secretary of State Sammy Mahdi to take action.

The strike ended two weeks after that visit.

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