We have grown used to horrific images of refugees from Syria risking – and losing – their lives fleeing their war-torn country, but Thursday’s arrival of 34 Syrian refugees in Belgium presented a quite different picture. The members of the ten families concerned had been issued with humanitarian visas, and arrived at Brussels Airport like any other traveller, to be greeted by representatives of the charity organisations who will take care of them in the coming months.
The families – 19 adults and 15 children – have spent the last months in a Turkish refugee camp. While there, they were briefed by Catholic organisations on the Belgian offer. The Belgian government, meanwhile, carried out security screening.
The families will still have to apply here for asylum, but they will not enter into the normal circuit for asylum-seekers, as their care has been guaranteed by the organisations – Sant’Egidio, Caritas and partners. The fact they have already been screened is expected to speed up the procedure.
Their arrival brings to 72 the number of vulnerable refugees currently in the country, brought here by the Humanitarian Corridors initiative of the UN. Sant’Egidio and asylum minister Theo Francken last year signed an agreement to allow a total of 150 refugees to come through that legal channel this year. Previous arrivals have already been granted asylum.