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Single men seeking asylum turned away from Belgian reception centres

11:26 05/09/2023

As Belgium grapples with record-high numbers of migrants seeking asylum in the country, single men are being turned away from reception centres in order to prioritise women, children and families.

The federal government pledged to create additional reception places for asylum-seekers between now and winter, but this policy will be upheld in the meantime, said prime minister Alexander De Croo (Open-VLD) and secretary of state Nicole De Moor (CD&V).

De Moor made the policy decision unilaterally, RTBF reports.

“This decision is temporary and does not mean that we are abandoning our efforts to create new places,” she said, but was unable to specify a precise number of places to be created or a deadline for doing so.

The announcement triggered a number of indignant reactions from migrant aid associations and partners of the government majority.

Deputy prime minister Petra De Sutter (Groen) “urged” de Moor to withdraw the measure and wrote on X (Twitter) that “if other people around the government table also want human rights to be respected in our country, I expect them to come out of the woodwork”.

“What we are seeing is a shift in standards,” De Sutter said. “Last year, we had the same discussion. At the time, the promise was that no one would be sleeping rough. It was a commitment, a promise, which was not kept. This cannot go on.”

She also refuted the argument that the policy would prevent families with children from ending up on the streets.

“Let's choose the plague, otherwise we'll get cholera – that's not a good argument,” said De Sutter. “You can set priorities, but making it a policy and formalising it is going too far.”

Ecolo deputy prime minister Georges Gilkinet described the measure as “extremely problematic” and Pierre-Yves Dermagne (PS) told RTL-TVi that “we cannot take a decision that breaks the law”.

“We told Nicole de Moor that this cannot be done,” Dermagne said. “We have made it clear that this instruction must be temporary and demanded that she come up with a solid plan over the next few days.”

Prime minister De Croo stressed in an interview with De Tijd that the measures were indeed only temporary and that the government was continuing to look for new places to house refugees.

“We are doing everything we can to keep it as short as possible,” De Croo said. “The sooner we are able to create places, the shorter it will be.”

Written by Helen Lyons