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Protestor resumes hunger strike over immigration status

Illustration shows an action in support of a hunger strike by people without papers occupying the Saint John the Baptist at the Beguinage - Sint-Jan Baptist ten Begijnhofkerk - Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au-Beguinage church in Brussels, Monday 19 July 2021. (BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT)
06:11 25/10/2021

One of the immigrants taking shelter at the Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Beguinage in Brussels has begun a one-woman hunger strike in protest at what she says will be the rejection of her application for regularisation by the Immigration Office.

According to the woman, an internal note from the Immigration Office seen by her lawyer shows that she will not receive the temporary regularisation she has applied for and so she has once again decided to take action.

The woman, Nezha A, who arrived in Belgium in 2009 with a valid European residence permit and an employment contract, was one of about 430 undocumented people who held a hunger strike in the Beguinage Church and in the Brussels universities VUB and ULB earlier this year. The strike finally came to an end after 60 days on 21 July.

The hunger strikers had demanded collective regularisation, which was refused, but were promised that their files would be handled individually according to the existing rules.

Nezha’s case is one of those being heard individually. According to the note, a number of factors are in her favour, such as two promises of employment, training in Dutch, the fact that she has family in Belgium and her involvement in social activities. However, at the end of the document, the choice of temporary regularisation is struck out, leaving as the only other option the refusal of the application.

Nezha became aware of this note on 4 October. In desperation, she decided on Wednesday to resume the hunger strike, despite not yet receiving any official response to her request for regularisation.

"If she is refused with a very complete file, then 90% of the hunger strikers will see their files refused," fears Mohammed, a spokesman for the activists in the church. If it turns out that the regularisation applications lead to nothing, according to Mohammed, a collective hunger strike will start again.

"We expect to have the first feedback from people who have had answers starting next week. If we see that the demands for regularisation are coming to nothing, we will start the hunger strike again collectively."

Written by Nick Amies