Belgian government reaches agreement on emergency reception capacity for asylum seekers

On Wednesday afternoon, the Belgian government reached an agreement on a package of measures to deal with the reception crisis in the asylum network. State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor (CD&V) announced this in parliament. 

The agreement implies among others that the ministry of Defence will create 750 temporary emergency reception places in hangars in the short term. It will take care of the infrastructure, while the asylum services are in charge of the operation. 

The intention is that, in the somewhat longer term, the 750 places in sheds will be systematically replaced by 750 places in a container village. According to the ministry of Defence, the location of the container village will be decided on the basis of the presence of basic facilities such as water and electricity. The ministry of Defence will be responsible for the construction of the village and its coordination. This village is also temporary, stresses the ministry of Defence. 

The government is also working on additional ordinary reception capacity. To that end, it is launching a public tender with private partners and is calling on local authorities and NGOs to find out where additional individual shelter can be found, according to de Moor.

In addition to additional capacity, the government wants to promote the outflow from the reception network. To do so, the number of decisions made by the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS) must be increased, said de Moor. The service recently received extra personnel and will be made aware of this responsibility, he said. In addition, people in the reception network who have a job and housing will be able to leave at an accelerated pace. 

Finally, the government wants to limit the influx of asylum seekers. This is done by reinforcing existing prevention campaigns, said de Moor, with a specific focus on transit countries in order to avoid asylum seekers who have already applied for asylum elsewhere in the EU coming to Belgium. To better enforce these 'Dublin rules', the Immigration Department will open a 'Dublin centre' this month, an open centre for asylum seekers with a Dublin profile. 

For months, Belgium has been struggling with a saturated reception network. As a result, not all asylum seekers who are entitled to it get a reception place.



The opening of emergency housing for Ukrainian refugees in Antwerp, Belgium. - © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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