Search form

menu menu

More asylum seekers turned away from Office for Foreigners

11:32 27/08/2015

For the second time in a week, the Office for Foreigners in Brussels has had to ask asylum applicants to come back the next day because of the overwhelming demand. On Wednesday, 93 individuals or families were registered then sent away with a letter telling them to come back the next day for an interview. 

Earlier in the week, 203 letters were given out. After a successful interview, asylum seekers are referred to Fedasil, which assigns accommodation. Those not yet interviewed are often forced to spend the night in one of the nearby parks. The local Red Cross are providing food and tents at the parks.

Last week, Fedasil announced it would be taking on 130 more staff to cope with the flood of migrants, but the bottleneck occurs at the Office for Foreigners, the asylum seekers’ first port of call. Director-general Freddy Roosemont said that he hoped his agency, too, would be allowed more staff. “The secretary of state [Theo Francken] will go to the council of ministers on Friday to ask for extra personnel,” he said.

Hans Bonte, the socialist mayor of neighbouring Vilvoorde, has expressed concern about the impact of so many refugees on the many radicalised youths in his municipality. Vilvoorde has turned out to be a hotbed of fundamentalist Islam, with the highest number in the country of young people going to fight in Syria.

Many of the refugees are fleeing from that conflict, and Bonte said he fears problems could be sparked, with relatives and friends of the Syria fighters regarding the refugees as cowards or traitors for having left.

“The situation is becoming explosive,” he said. “We are in a region that has been traumatised by the situation in Syria. The capital is only a stone’s throw away, and if the incident on the Thalys shows us anything, it’s that weapons are easily come by.”

The refugee crisis, he continued, “is a humanitarian disaster, and I want to do anything possible to help, but we must first and foremost be able to guarantee the safety of the asylum seekers. And at this moment I cannot do that.”

Photo: Jonathan Raa/Demotix/Corbis

Written by Alan Hope