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Asylum centres struggle to find shelter for unaccompanied minors

Illustration shows a young boy waiting outside the 'Klein Kasteeltje - Petit Chateau' (Little Castle) Fedasil registration centre for asylum seekers in Brussels, Wednesday 01 December 2021. (BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT)
06:03 09/12/2021

A desperate situation at the Petit-Château asylum seeker reception centre in Brussels was partially resolved late on Wednesday after 10 of the 30 unaccompanied foreign minors seeking shelter were provided with emergency accommodation.

The 30 unaccompanied foreign minors were identified in the queue outside the Fedasil-managed reception centre on Wednesday morning but only 16 places were available at the Petit-Château and other reception centres were full. Ten places were found through independent hosts while Doctors Without Borders and Fedasil, the organisation responsible for the reception of asylum seekers, worked to find additional accommodation among the 100 emergency places made available recently by the City of Brussels.

"We obviously regret that there are again not enough places to accommodate everyone," said a spokesperson for Fedasil. "Today, we crossed a new line with these unaccompanied minors for whom we did not have reception places. We have not been able to welcome everyone since 19 October. Places are being created, but this is not enough to absorb all the demands that come in."

"The authorities must work on structural solutions as quickly as possible, because the solutions that are proposed in an emergency are not intended to be long-term," added Julien Buha Colette, head of mission at Doctors Without Borders.

"I have specifically asked Fedasil to accommodate all minors,” secretary of state for asylum and migration Sammy Mahdi said on Twitter. “This situation is unacceptable, and I will personally ensure that their reception is respected. Better to take an adult's bed, than not to have a bed at all."

Advocates for children’s rights were critical of the government’s response to the crisis. "This is an unacceptable situation, especially since it has been known for several days that it will deteriorate further,” said Bernard De Vos, the general delegate (ombudsman) for children’s rights. “As a child rights defender, it's unbearable to see this."

The federal network now has a total of more than 28,000 reception places across the country, most of which are full. Some places are left free for the isolation of people who test positive for the coronavirus.

In November, a record number of 418 unaccompanied foreign minors joined the federal reception network. In total, Fedasil has some 2,600 places for them, which are currently all occupied, compared to 2,100 which were available in January.

Approximately 500 places were therefore created during the year. "For unaccompanied foreign minors, we have to offer much more than beds, we must also offer support by qualified personnel," explained Benoît Mansy. "At the moment, we do the best with what we have."


Written by Nick Amies