Reception crisis in Belgium reaches new low, leaving dozens sleeping on the streets

A squat was evacuated in recent days, causing some 1,000 refugees to lose their shelter. Despite the government providing additional shelter, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants were again forced to sleep on the streets near the registration centre 't Klein Kasteeltje on Wednesday night, while authorities quarrelled over a hotel reservation for 163 men.

There are no exact figures on how many people slept on the Brussels tarmac on Wednesday night. But those who ended up there could count on the help of local residents, who distributed food, clothes and tents.

The fact that so many people ended up back on the streets was due to the eviction of a squat on Tuesday and Wednesday, where some 1,000 refugees and homeless people had been living together in deplorable conditions for months. 250 people were given shelter in different centres this week. Another 163 men were to be housed in an Ibis hotel due to a lack of space.

Poor communication

The summoning of an Ibis hotel just outside Brussels caused much political unrest. Both the local administration of the municipality of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, where the Ibis hotel is located, the police zone and the Flemish government claimed on Wednesday that they were unaware of the proceedings.

Flemish authorities said that the Brussels government allegedly rented out 60 rooms for 13 days without consultation. However, Rudi Vervoort, minister-president of the Brussels Capital Region, revealed on Thursday that there had been prior contact with other authorities.

Poor organisation ​

Mayor Jan Desmeth (N-VA) of Sint-Pieters-Leew is very critical of how everything went. On the one hand, there was a lack of medical screening. For instance, there were 80 people on the bus heading to the hotel who had not been medically screened. They were taken to a Brussels hospital for examination. Some of them were kept there because scabies was diagnosed. The others did return to the hotel.

Furthermore, according to Desmeth, too few rooms were booked, and no food was provided. "Only 30 rooms for three people were initially booked for 90 people. But there were more," he told Radio 1. "Moreover, no breakfast and no hot meal was provided for them. We, therefore, arranged for food to be brought from Brussels. That will also be the case in the coming days." There is a consultation for that today. "But then the question remains: what next?"


Illustration picture shows a cyclist passing tents during a solidarity action near the tent camp in front of the Petit Chateau - Klein Kasteeltje Fedasil Arrival center, in Brussels, Wednesday 15 February 2023. Following evacuation of the squatted so-called Palais des Droits - Rechtenpaleis building, at the Paleizenstraat - Rue des Palais, lots of asylum seekers remain without proper housing, even though their demand has already been approved.



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