For months now, the reception centre Klein Kasteeltje run by Fedasil has been the posterchild of the asylum crisis in Belgium. The country's Migration Minister has now proposed to relieve the centre from one of its main activities to mitigate the situation.
Klein Kasteeltje (or Petit-Château) in Brussels has gained notoriety as images of asylum seekers sleeping on the streets en masse in front of its gates have been shared on social media since last October, as they are not given the shelter they are legally entitled to. This has resulted in frustration from locals and finally saw Fedasil's personnel putting down their work on Tuesday in protest.
State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole De Moor, who last week was called on to take action immediately by Brussels' mayor Philippe Close, announced on Wednesday that, starting next week, the registration of asylum seekers will no longer take place at the Klein Kasteeltje, and that this function will be carried out by the offices of the Immigration Department (DVZ) instead.
"Two things are done by employees in the Klein Kasteeltje today: the asylum applications are being registered there and you are also allocated a reception place. We are going to temporarily separate these two activities," De Moor told Radio 1.
She explained that moving the registration processes to the offices of the DVZ, next to the Finance Tower in Brussels, is a "temporary solution pending a more definitive registration centre." Meanwhile, the allocation of the shelter places will still be carried out in the Klein Kasteeltje.
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As of Wednesday, crowd control barriers and police reinforcement will also be put in place at Klein Kasteeltje.
"We also met last night with the city of Brussels and the police of the capital and they are now making an extra effort to ensure that we can control the situation properly," De Moor said.
Helping to guarantee rights?
According to Thomas Willekens of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen (Refugee Work Flanders), this move that is being proclaimed as the solution should not make people lose sight of the fact that there is still a crisis ongoing.
"However, if we see that from next week, this ensures that the right to asylum is once again respected, then that is of course a good thing," he told The Brussels Times.
But there are some reservations, he added. The flow between the DVZ and the Klein Kasteeltje must be guaranteed and asylum seekers must be properly informed about the process.
"Finally, this is not an easy measure to implement, as it requires various logistics to be worked out, and doing so in three days may not be easy. We expect that this will be streamlined properly on Monday," he concluded.
Belgium is facing a migration crisis, driven by an insufficient number of places to offer shelter to all people seeking asylum in the country. This is the result of the government closing down centres when the demand decreased, leaving them unprepared for an increase in arrivals as is being experienced now.