140 undocumented migrants occupy Brussels church again

140 undocumented migrants occupy Brussels church again
People on hunger strike in the Beguinage church last summer. Credit: Belga

About 140 undocumented migrants have re-occupied the Beguinage Church in Brussels since Monday.

Most of the migrants are the same people who went on hunger strike there last summer, according to Bruzz, though a new, large-scale hunger strike is not currently planned.

Representatives of the occupiers said in a press release that they were able to see the first decisions of the Immigration Department on the regularisation applications of the then-hunger strikers and, according to them, felt betrayed.

“We have therefore decided to make the contents of our conversations with the State Secretary public,” they said.

On 21 July, the representatives met with State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi (CD&V), along with Director-General Freddy Roosemont of the Immigration Department and Commissioner-General for Refugees and Stateless Persons Dirk Van den Bulck (CGVZ).

They raised the issue of the 'arbitrariness' that, according to them, was used in the handling of the hunger strikers' requests for immigration papers. The conversation led to the presentation of 'concrete elements' with which 'a considerable part' of the hunger strikers could be granted legal residence, Bruzz reports.

Translation: @SammyMahdi @grikos on the five hunger strikers of the #Béguinage regularised out of 470: "The number is not important: what is important is that we look at each file. Those who are not accepted will have to leave the territory: a return will be prepared"

But the representatives say those agreements are not being respected.

“All the negative responses that we were able to look into relate to cases that largely comply with the guidelines mentioned above,” they said.

“The elements that were put on the table were not respected. It is a shame for all of us and it is a human tragedy for the hundreds of undocumented migrants whose future has just been very brutally eclipsed.”

They called the rejection of those immigration requests “an unprecedented betrayal,” saying they felt “duped” by the authorities in the meeting and describing it as “a political scandal with immeasurable human consequences.”

On Wednesday, the four will hold a press conference in the Beguinage Church in Brussels, adding that several people involved threaten to go on hunger strike again.

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In a reaction, Mahdi reiterated that he never promised the hunger strikers any special treatment.

“No new guidelines have been agreed upon, there were no negotiations either, only the regularisation policy that has been adhered to has been frequently explained and transparently communicated,” he told his cabinet, saying that any other treatment of those files would not be fair.

“Each file is treated humanely and all elements in a file are taken into account, not only those that an applicant himself brings in,” Mahdi explained.

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