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Long weekend results in hundreds more refugees lining up in Brussels

17:16 25/07/2022

Belgium's refugee crisis has returned to the top of the agenda as long lines have been forming outside Brussels’ reception centre, closed for four days during the long holiday weekend,.

Once again, there were queues due to no places being available for asylum seekers looking to access the country’s resources. 

Of the approximately 300 people who applied for refugee status, all the minors and the majority of families could be helped, VRT reports. But 160 migrants, mainly single men, were refused entry due to a lack of space.

Aid organisations have been complaining for some time about the slow processing of asylum cases and the shortage of reception places. Belgium has been attempting to remedy the problem by converting unused buildings like a former hotel into additional spaces to house migrants. 

But the long weekend prompted an overflow again, with the majority of asylum seekers coming from Afghanistan, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

It’s a legal obligation to give every asylum seeker a bed, access to bathing facilities and food until their case can be processed. 

But single men are denied these rights on a near daily basis due to a lack of available places in Belgian shelters. The situation has led to lawsuits from human rights organisations along with over 740 convictions this year alone against Fedasil, the agency responsible for the reception of asylum seekers. 

Calls for migrants to more easily enter the workforce

Ecolo co-chair Jean-Marc Nollet told L'Avenir that the federal government could use refugees to help alleviate labour shortages in certain sectors, like hospitality and construction. 

“More than 200,000 vacancies remain unfilled, while there are plenty of workers available and all they want is to get out of the black economy,” Nollet said, calling for a pathway to legal work for undocumented migrants.

“I’m only suggesting that sans-papiers living in Belgium get what is already provided for Ukrainian refugees. I would like them to be able to apply for jobs, to be able to get jobs and, in time, also be able to be regularised because they have often been in Belgium for years.” 

According to Nollet, half of the “between 70,000 and 150,000 undocumented migrants” could be eligible for his proposal.

Photo: Asylum seekers at entrance of Fedasil registration centre Klein Kasteeltje - Petit Chateau in Brussels © Belga/Nils Quintelier

 

Written by Helen Lyons