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Abandoned Brussels hotel becomes reception centre for unaccompanied minors

07:58 04/05/2023

A new reception centre for unaccompanied minors has officially opened in an abandoned hotel in Brussels.

The centre, which is located on Boulevard Lambermont in Schaerbeek, will eventually provide accommodation and support for up to 70 young people.

About 15 people have already taken up residence at the new centre, RTBF reports, most of them boys between the ages of 14 and 18.

The asylum seekers served at the hotel must first spend two to four weeks in an Orientation and Observation Centre. Afterwards, they will be accompanied throughout their pre-university schooling and prepared for eventual independence.

“We focus on young people who have been living in Belgium for a few weeks, or, in the case of some, a few months,” said Fedasil spokeswoman Lies Gilis.

She said that whether support carries on into adulthood varies.

“It depends from case to case. Some continue to be accommodated in local reception initiatives even after their 18th birthday. How long they will stay in the centre depends mainly on how far along the young people are in their asylum procedure, and how old they are.”

The centre in Schaerbeek not only provides for basic needs such as food and lodging but also offers social, legal and medical support.

“The context and needs are completely different from those in a regular reception centre, so this is also specifically taken into account,” Gilis said.

“There is much more guidance, there are more educators at work, but there are also activities and collaborations with local sports clubs and youth movements.”

According to Fedasil, the number of refugees arriving in the country without a parental guardian has decreased, but there remains a lack of spaces for minors in their second or third phase of integration, as well as minors under the age of 15.

Many such minors are awaiting adoption. For people who wish to help through other means, the Schaerbeek centre has its own website and Facebook page where it relays, among other things, a list of items that people may donate, including clothing and various supplies.

With the opening of the new centre, Fedasil now has a record 3,500 places for unaccompanied minors, and 34,000 places overall.

Written by Helen Lyons