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Refugee NGO files complaint with EU against migration minister

12:08 03/09/2015

The NGO Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen (VWV), which works on behalf of asylum-seekers in Flanders, has filed a legal complaint with the European Commission against federal secretary of state for migration and asylum Theo Francken. The complaint follows Francken’s announcement that the number of asylum seekers registered by the Office for Foreigners would be limited to 250 a day. 

Francken said that the unlimited registration of refugees was “not sustainable and irresponsible”. In recent weeks, the numbers of applicants lined up in front of the Office for Foreigners in Brussels has far exceeded 250, with those asked to come back another day spending the night in two nearby parks in tents donated by the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

The reception service for new arrivals operates a daily quota of 250 to 260, the most it can handle in one working day. Last Monday, 466 people had to be turned away, with 200 told to come back on Tuesday, 200 on Wednesday and 66 on Thursday.

On Tuesday, 155 were told to come back, most of them on Thursday. That means Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were fully booked in advance, as 50 places are kept open for urgent cases, including the elderly, pregnant women and whole families. As the days go by, the backlog increases.

VWV said in a statement that the 250 cap on asylum seekers was “a random limit”. All refugees who make it to Belgium have an equal right to be helped in a humane manner, the organisation said. “The secretary of state cannot be allowed to use a problem of capacity as an excuse for the chaos he himself created.”

VWV claims that Francken is in breach of EU regulations and proposes a number of measures to aid the situation, including an increase in staff at the Office for Foreigners, the creation of additional accommodation and the introduction of a plan to spread the numbers of refugees across the country.

Photo: Thierry Roge/BELGA

Written by Alan Hope