The staff of an application centre for asylum seekers in Brussels began a 24-strike on Monday morning, meaning that no one can apply for asylum there until 8:00 AM on Tuesday, according to reporting from De Standaard.
A staff member who spoke with Radio 1 estimated around 50 of the nearly 100 staff members were striking, with their primary concerns being long work hours and short contracts that provide little job security.
“I constantly have to ask my team to help out because there is always an urgent need for someone,” that staff member said.
The number of monthly asylum applications in Belgium is at its highest level since the 2015 refugee crisis, but centres remain understaffed and there are few of them in general.
Those centres for asylum seekers are overcrowded with migrants, in part because an application can take over a year to process.
In order to speed up these decisions, the Commissariat for Refugees and Stateless Persons that makes those decisions has received extra support from the government.
“This is being used to recruit more staff,” Dirk Van den Bulck, Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons, in the same programme, told De Standaard.
But that financial support came at a time when staff shortages were already being felt, and Van den Bulck says these shortages can’t be eliminated quickly.
“Recruitment and selection are in progress, which takes some time, and because of Covid-19, new staff members are not trained as quickly,” Van den Bulck said.
“But we are making progress: the number of decisions is much higher than before.”