Belgium prevents migrants from seeking asylum and makes them sleep restless again


Hundreds of migrants sleep in front of the only registration center in Brussels to lodge their asylum applications and find shelter, but the Belgian accommodation system seems overwhelmed and unable to enforce, once again, their right to welcome and protection.

For almost a month, every morning, between 150 and 200 people have lined up in front of the Fedasil agency, the federal reception agency for asylum seekers, in downtown Brussels to submit their asylum application and find overnight accommodation. . Many began to spend the night there and sleep on the sidewalk to make up for their place in the queue, among rats and trash, in the cold.

Belgium has more than 28,000 reception places in total, in 79 collective centers and individual housing, but the network seems entirely saturated.

According to Fedasil, this can be explained in particular by the increase in asylum requests, the resettlement of Syrian refugees, the lengthening of the length of stay in reception centers, and the repatriation mission from Afghanistan as well as summer flooding and the reservation of certain places as isolation sites for possible COVID-19 infections.

Yet all contributing factors were predictable and treatable, with the most recent still occurring several months ago, highlighting a system incapable of flexibility, anticipation and ultimately credibility.

Fedasil staff stopped working in October for several days to protest against “the inaction of our political authorities.And recurring cuts to services when arrivals decrease.

This whole situation is cyclical, structural and predictable.

The lack of reception capacity is a recurring concern in Belgium. The same reception center has already encountered significant difficulties in 2018 and 2019, when the government set a limited number of asylum requests per day, then deemed in contradiction with national and international law by the Council of State. After this judgment, all asylum seekers were accommodated on the same day they lodged their asylum application. However, in January 2020, the government again decided to limit the right to reception.

“It’s not a question of resources, but of priorities. There are no unforeseeable emergencies or massive arrivals now, it is clear that the problem is structural, ”said Michela Pugliese, migration and asylum researcher at Euro-Med Monitor,“ Everywhere in Europe, States avoid looking at the big picture, all are linked by neglect and lack of long-term vision, especially vis-à-vis asylum seekers and the homeless. When you manage a systematic problem with emergency solutions and time-based concessions, rather than an unlimited and constant provision of rights, it is inevitable. “

The consequences of mismanagement and a lack of planning are disastrous for the physical and psychological well-being of the people that states should protect, but also for the credibility of the Belgian authorities and the European Union as well. Indeed, the housing situation goes beyond Belgium, with many European countries reporting similar problems, such as France and the Netherlands.

Euro-Med Monitor calls on Belgium to guarantee all applicants for international protection healthcare and a decent standard of living at all times; ensure their right to material reception conditions as soon as they submit their asylum application, in accordance with art. 20 (6) of the Reception Conditions Directive; and to exercise their right to request international protection as soon as possible, in accordance with Article 6 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive.

Euro-Med Monitor calls on the European Commission to ensure respect for European asylum law and in particular the Reception Conditions Directive, and to take appropriate enforcement action when concerns and systematic violations are identified.

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