Bailiff seizes freezer and coffee machine from Asylum secretary's office
A freezer and a coffee machine were confiscated by a bailiff at the offices of Belgium's state secretary for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor, on Thursday morning. The seizure is a consequence of the non-payment of penalty payments imposed on the Belgian state for not providing shelter to asylum seekers while they are being processed.
The bailiff had already attempted to enter De Moor's offices in 2023, but the office resisted the seizures. According to lawyer Marie Doutrepont of the Progress Lawyers Network, a judge has now ruled that "since the Belgian state is not willing to pay (the fines) voluntarily", the seizure of the goods is not an abuse.
"The Belgian state has already been condemned more than 9,000 times by the labour court for this situation. Unfortunately, despite the persistent efforts of lawyers to defend [asylum seekers'] rights, these rulings are not respected," said Doutrepont. As a result of the judge's ruling, furniture that is not necessary for the continuity of the administration and functioning of De Moor's cabinet will be sold to the public via an online sale on 12 January.
Not enough places
"That the government so stubbornly disregards the principle of the rule of law, and chooses to have furniture of a ministerial office confiscated instead of complying with a court decision, is unprecedented and very disturbing," said Doutrepont. "Meanwhile, asylum seekers continue to shiver in the freezing cold nights of Brussels."
"That the government so stubbornly disregards the principle of the rule of law (...) is unprecedented and very disturbing"
"I continue to look with this government for places to receive asylum seekers," De Moor told Belga. "We have made a huge effort during this legislature and now have 37,500 places, including 2,000 temporary ones in Brussels' homeless shelters. Everyone has been able to see that we are continuing our efforts," she said, but "we still do not have enough places and these legal proceedings or confiscations do not bring us one millimetre closer".
In July 2023, the Belgian state and Fedasil, the institution responsible for the reception of asylum seekers, were condemned by the Court of First Instance in Brussels for their handling of the reception crisis. The problem is more pronounced in Belgium than it was in 2015, when Europe was hit by what has been called the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Belgium has been facing a major reception crisis for some time, prompting civil society organisations to take the state and Fedasil to court. In its defence, the state invoked the principle of force majeure, preventing it from fulfilling its obligation.
State secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE