Welcoming refugees: Ukraine coordinator insists ‘everything is going well’ in Brussels

Welcoming refugees: Ukraine coordinator insists ‘everything is going well’ in Brussels
Ukrainian refugees at the registration centre at Palais 8 in Brussels. Credit: Belga

State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi (CD&V) criticised a lack of coordination between Belgium’s three regions when it comes to the reception of Ukrainian refugees, but Brussels’ coordinator Pierre Verbeeren insisted that “everything is going well.”

Mahdi had said earlier this week that while Flanders has already started to establish collective reception places, the two other regions are still lagging behind.

“I do not want to turn this into a Community game. I know it is not easy, but I see that some people can do it. We have to work together,” Mahdi remarked.

But Verbeeren firmly rejected the criticism: “He is the only one who thinks like that and he is wrong. Everything is actually going well.”

Divisive statements "unhelpful"

“It is unhelpful to make such a criticism because of internal party political reasons,” Verbeeren said.

The number of Ukrainians expected to seek shelter in Belgium has recently been revised downwards. At the start of the war, 200,000 refugees were expected in Belgium but now the figure is closer to 78,000, according to Mahdi’s office.

For the time being, about 40,000 Ukrainians are registered, some 12,000 in Brussels.

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Of these 12,000, approximately 7,200 are currently in need of accommodation. Verbeeren acknowledged the challenge, which will undoubtedly be made difficult as a result of the housing crisis facing the Belgian capital.

The plan in Brussels is to convert vacant offices into housing, though this will be time-consuming; work is also underway on 500 modular places.

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