Another long queue of asylum seekers in front of the application centre in Brussels
Once again, there is a long queue of men in front of the closed gate of 'Little Castle', the application centre of Fedasil in Brussels. Despite the fact that last weekend again dozens of people slept in front of the centre hoping to get in, Monday morning just as many asylum seekers were disappointed. The aid organisations present say that the persistent problem is caused by too little space and too long procedures.
According to Fedasil, about two hundred applications took place on Monday, although just as many asylum seekers remained outside when the gate of Klein Kasteeltje closed at 9 o'clock and the police asked those in the queue to leave the premises and come back tomorrow.
At Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen they wonder how long the patience of these people will last.
"Several men have been sleeping on the streets for weeks or months", says Thomas Willekens, policy officer of Flemish Refugee Council. "You notice that they are starting to deteriorate, are tired and do not understand what is happening. Yet they carry on and are resilient, precisely because they have no alternative. Even though what they have to go through is inhuman."
"Reception places were created last summer, but it is still insufficient," Willekens adds. "Offering reception is a result commitment, not an effort commitment. The outflow from the network has not increased either, and that has to do with the long procedural times. The application and processing now takes a year to a year and a half, and that causes the network to be saturated."
Fedasil acknowledges that the federal government and the brand new state secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole De Moor are making investments to attract more staff and create reception places, but places are still needed in the short term. Meanwhile, the profile of the people who cannot apply remains the same: single men who are not considered vulnerable. Families and single women, children and the sick are given priority.
"It is difficult for the people who want to ask for protection, but also for the people of Fedasil it is a painful exercise to make that selection every day and to inform the people that they have to come back," says Benoit Mansy, spokesman of Fedasil.
Belgium is obliged by law to offer asylum seekers shelter for the duration of their procedure. For almost a year now, our country has not been doing so and people, including women and children, have been sleeping on the streets.
Last week, the Belgian army announced that the first preparations had been made to temporarily house 750 asylum seekers in the barracks in Berlaar. Three sheds have been cleared there and the site of the future emergency accommodation has been completely fenced off on the military estate. Red Cross Flanders hopes to have the reception centre operational and to receive the first refugees in early August.
Illustration shows refugees waiting outside, at the entry to the 'Klein Kasteeltje - Petit Chateau' (Little Castle) Fedasil (Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers) registration center for asylum seekers in Brussels, Friday 17 June 2022. The Brussels Labor Court finds a "deliberate, coordinated and persistent" violation of the right to reception of asylum seekers. This practice "seems desirable, considered and organized" by the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Mahdi (CD&V). Since the beginning of this year, more than 1,400 lawsuits have been filed against Fedasil for failing to provide asylum reception.
© BELGA PHOTO NOE ZIMMER
© BELGA VIDEO NILS QUINTELIER