More than 500 migrants and refugees have continued hunger strike for nearly two months in Belgium, seeking to obtain the right to live and work legally in Belgium.
The undocumented migrants started refusing water as part of the strike at a baroque church and university campus in Brussels.
The 500 migrants are mostly from south Asia and north Africa.
They demand a clear path to legal residency, with many having lived and worked in Belgium for years.
The issue has attracted the attention of 90 European Parliament left-leaning and liberal MEPs.
They are requesting those on strike gain legal status by the state.
“The hunger strike weakens them considerably. Suicide attempts have taken place in recent days. While, some people have sewn their lips together in protest,” they said, in a joint letter last week to Belgium’s prime minister and state secretary for asylum and migration.
“As members of the EU Parliament, we ask you to accept their requests for regularisation through residence and work permits,” they said.
But Belgium’s state secretary for asylum and migration, Sammy Mahdi appears unconvinced.
However, Amnesty International has condemned European states for being responsible for the “horrific violations” against migrants.
The rights group has documented in a 50-page report “harrowing violations, including sexual violence, against men, women and children.” The refugees were intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to detention centres in Libya.
The report was based on testimonies of 53 refugees and migrants, aged between 14 and 50. The refugees were from countries such as Nigeria, Somalia and Syria, who were mostly still in Libya.
Thus, Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, called the rights group’s new report “horrifying”.