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Protestors occupy Immigration Office in support of hunger strikers
Around 40 people occupied the lobby of the Office for Immigration building in Brussels on Tuesday afternoon, in support of the 475 undocumented immigrants who have been on hunger strike for a month.
Some of the protestors inside the lobby chained themselves to fixtures while a larger group, swelling the total number to around 100, according to police reports, demonstrated outside. The group, which entered the building at around 15.30, consisted of students, citizens, social workers and activists from the collectives and committees that have been helping the undocumented hunger strikers.
The protestors, who demanded urgent talks with Freddy Roosemont, director-general of the immigration office, as the health of many of the hunger strikers has deteriorated, were calmly dispersed by police at around 18.45.
A spokesperson for the Office for Immigration said that the demands of the protestors could not be met at such short notice. "Out of the blue, without prior preparation, the director-general could not receive them today,” the spokesperson said.
“They can of course get back in touch. Our director-general has regularly received associations and delegations of undocumented immigrants, but not like that." The spokesperson explained that the Office for Immigration is only an administration that implements decisions taken by the cabinet of the secretary of state for asylum and migration Sammy Mahdi and the government as a whole.
The immigrants who are on hunger strike are calling for clear criteria for regularisation for people who are illegally present on Belgian soil and for an independent committee to be set up to judge the various cases. They argue that they have been severely affected by the health crisis because many of them worked in jobs that had been put on hold.
The Union of Undocumented People for Regularisation (USPR), the support committee set up to argue the case of the hunger strikers, said it was time for the government to provide a solution to the problem.
“It is now necessary for all parties to come together to provide a solution which involves regularisation on the basis of an expanded definition of 'exceptional constituencies' which takes into account the real situation of hunger strikers and all undocumented immigrants in Belgium, the health and economic crisis and the need for economic recovery,” the USPR’s statement read.