Belgium will house 750 asylum seekers in military barracks to relieve overburdened system
Belgium will make an additional 750 emergency places available to asylum seekers in former military barracks in the Antwerp municipality of Berlaar. In the past month, the country has come under fire for their handling of asylum seeker reception centres.
The Belgian federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers Fedasil has even reported a rise in the number of suicide attempts in these facilities owing to overcrowding. As a result, the government agreed to take steps to relieve the overburdened asylum system. The Defence Department will provide 750 emergency places in Berlaar in different military barracks and, in the long term, 750 places will be made available in temporary container villages. It is still unclear whether this planned container village will also be built in the Antwerp municipality.
Additionally, a reception centre in Zaventem, the so-called “Dublin” centre, will be able to hold 220 places for asylum seekers. These individuals are registered elsewhere in the European Union and must return there to have their applications processed under European rules.
This is the first major action of newly elected State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor. Her predecessor Sammy Mahdi, who was just become the new CD&V (Flemish Christian-democrats) leader, was heavily criticised for his handling of the asylum network in recent weeks.
Mahdi was found to have consistently violated asylum seekers’ right to reception by the French-speaking Brussels Labour Court, before the case was dismissed.
Now, de Moor appears to have found a solution to this over-saturation: extra emergency accommodation. “We are working hard on all solutions,” she told Flemish paper De Tijd. Adding that “not only on reception but also return to other EU countries, including the centre in Zaventem, and better outflow from the reception network.”
Asylum seekers waiting outside at the 'Klein Kasteeltje' Fedasil registration centre in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO NOE ZIMMER