Working asylum seekers to be charged for shelter

Working asylum seekers staying in a reception centre in Belgium will soon have to contribute to the costs of their stay. The "fair contribution" scheme will be on the Council of Ministers' agenda on Friday.

"It is only fair that asylum seekers who have their own income contribute to the cost of their reception," state secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor (CD&V, Flemish Christian democrats) said on Thursday. 

De Moor first announced the scheme last year in response to the reception crisis the country has been facing for almost two years. A shortage of places in shelters has left many asylum seekers sleeping on the streets or in squats.

She has now finalised a royal decree to implement the scheme. Asylum seekers with a net income of 900 euros will have to contribute around 25 per cent of their income, with higher earners paying a larger percentage.

Recognised refugees in transitional reception and minors with student jobs will be exempted. Asylum seekers with long-term employment and sufficient income will be encouraged to leave the reception network.

10,000 working asylum seekers

The system already existed on paper but had not been put into practice, partly because there was no way to verify income. Belgium's federal asylum agency, Fedasil, will now be able to access the social security data of asylum seekers to carry out checks. 

People found to have undeclared income will have to pay a higher contribution of 50 per cent of their gross salary. Shelters will be able to restrict services to people who refuse to pay and, as a last resort, evict them.

Under the new scheme, the government would have collected an estimated 28 million euros in contributions from around 10,000 working asylum seekers in 2022, De Moor said.

De Moor faced heavy criticism in August when she announced that single male asylum seekers would be temporarily refused shelter altogether. Earlier this month, the Council of State ruled the measure unlawful.


A makeshift camp set up on Place Flagey in Brussels to house asylum seekers, September 2023 © BELGA PHOTO KRISTOF VAN ACCOM

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