Belgium has registered a notable hike in the number of asylum seekers in the past few months, of which a large proportion are MENAs (unaccompanied foreign minors). Faced with growing numbers of refugees, reception centres are overwhelmed, almost 750 unaccompanied under-age refugees have no legal guardian as yet, and several hundred youths have had to sleep rough and totally unprotected in the past few weeks, accused Bernard De Vos, General Delegate for the Rights of Children in an open letter on Wednesday.
“Minors living on the streets are at risk of everything international agreements try to protect them from, starting with exploitation, abduction, violence, and prostitution. Our country seems to have no qualms in exposing dozens of children to these dangers if the reception we offer is not improved dramatically as soon as possible,” warns Mr. De Vos.
The General Delegate for the Rights of Children reckons as well, that these under-age refugees’ lives are intolerable mostly because of the limited number of registrations processed by the Immigration Office every day. “Our strongest recommendation is that the government must immediately organise an unconditional pre-reception process for all minors as soon as they reach our country, even before their first interview at the Immigration Office. This pre-reception is should actually be offered to all refugees, young and old, in a humane society.”
Over 750 MENAs are currently waiting for a legal guardian to be appointed as the law mandates, and the number of under-age refugees keeps growing. The Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons registered 765 asylum applications by MENAs last November, against 55 applications in November 2014.