In Brussels, at least 300 migrants are once again camping in the Gare du Nord and Parc Maximilien district. To put an end to this type of situation, the NGO networks Ciré and Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, as well as Médecins du Monde (“Doctors of the World”) are pleading with Belgian authorities to create a Reception and Guidance Centre in Brussels for migrants in transit (to ensure migrant protection).
NGOs lament that migrants who have just arrived in Brussels are often living in “shameful and insecure conditions.” They have to play “cat and mouse” with the police, whilst nearby residents sometimes have their peace disturbed.
In a letter sent last week, Ciré and Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, as well as Doctors of the World, are requesting that the federal government, the Brussels region, and the Brussels-City and Schaerbeek communes create such protection arrangements, by which to welcome migrants.
Amongst these migrants, several dream of going to the United Kingdom and are therefore not seeking asylum in Belgium. Caroline Intrand, the Co-Director of Ciré says, “However, they are rarely informed of their rights and duties. They have to be able to make a conscious choice.”
In practical terms, such an arrangement will enable “respect for the dignity of migrants by ensuring them a roof over their heads, water and food hygiene, information as to their rights and duties, the security of not being pursued by the police and/or subject to abuse owing to their precarious status.” The letter’s signatories mention that this form of structure may also have an added value for the state, which may thus more efficiently “know who these people are and their wishes, guaranteeing the peace of the neighbourhood, refocusing police missions around the security of everyone.”
The idea is inspired by the French experience where collective labour agreements have been put in place to empty the Calais and Grande-Synthe camps. Belgium’s inhabitants may also remember its temporary system for initial reception of such immigrants instigated at the end of 2015.
Lastly, associations are requesting Belgium starts negotiations with the United Kingdom, which they do not feel is currently accommodating enough asylum seekers.