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Rue de la Loi squat: Belgian state must pay migrants' utility bills

15:09 25/08/2023

A Brussels court has ruled that the Belgian state and its immigration authority Fedasil must pay the water and electricity bills of a building that is being used by homeless asylum seekers.

The building on Rue de la Loi has become a squat for migrants, RTBF reports, whose record numbers have overwhelmed the Belgian system and resulted in a lack of available housing for migrants.

The building that they have been squatting in while the state deals with a backlog of asylum applications is owned by the Belgian government.

In its ruling, the court said that while it was "indisputable that the plaintiffs committed an intentional act by occupying the building and that it was as a result of this occupation that they consumed the water and electricity".

But it added: "The Belgian state and Fedasil are ill-advised to rely on this fault in order to exonerate themselves from any liability."

The court pointed out that Belgium is obliged to provide shelter to any and all asylum seekers, regardless of their numbers, and it has issued numerous sanctions against the state for its failure to do so amid the refugee crisis.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that the Belgian state and Fedasil committed the first fault, namely failing to implement their obligations to receive all applicants for international protection on time,” the ruling on the squat said.

The judge added that if the Belgian state and Fedasil “had paid the penalty payments to which they were convicted [for their poor management of the reception crisis], the applicants concerned would have had some funds available for accommodation.”

“It is because of these culpable abstentions that the applicants for international protection squatted in the [state] building, in order to have the protection of a roof and walls and not to be exposed day and night to the elements,” the ruling added.

“The fault of the victim, caused by the fault of the person responsible, does not exonerate the latter from liability.”

Written by Helen Lyons