Amidst Winter, Belgium is Making Asylum Seekers Sleep Rough Once Again

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Hundreds of migrants are unable to submit their asylum requests in Belgium, leaving
hundreds of vulnerable people to sleep on the street, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said
in a statement today.  

“For almost a month now, every morning, between 150 and 200 people queue up in front
of the Fedasil agency, the federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers, in downtown
Brussels to lodge their asylum applications and find a place to stay for the night,” Euro-Med said. 

However, many asylum seekers sleep there without shelter to hold their spot in the queue
for the following day. Euro-Med said they sleep in the cold amid rats and garbage. 

While the Belgian accommodation system seems overwhelmed and incapable of upholding
their right of reception and protection, Euro-Med says that it is the Belgian’s responsibility to provide migrants with physical and psychological protection. 

Belgium has over 28,000 reception places in 79 collective centres and individual
but the network appears overwhelmed.

Fedasil said that this is due to the increase of asylum applicants over the past years,
especially with the flow of Syrian refugees. 

“Yet all the contributing factors were predictable and treatable, with the most recent ones
still occurring several months ago, highlighting a system incapable of flexibility, anticipation and eventually credibility.

Fedasil’s personnel stopped working in October for several days to protest against “the lack
of action by our political authorities,” the Euro-Med statement said. 

Euro-Med Monitor also added that the lack of reception capacity is ongoing in Belgium. The
exact arrival centre already faced significant difficulties in 2018 and 2019, when the
government set a limited number of asylum applications per day, then ruled to contradict
national and international law by the Council of State. After this judgement, all asylum
seekers were accommodated on the day they made their asylum applications. However, in January 2020, the government decided again to limit the right to reception once again.

“It’s not a matter of resources, but priorities. There are neither unpredictable emergencies
nor mass arrivals now. It’s clear that the problem is structural,” said Michela Pugliese, Migration and Asylum Researcher at the Euro-Med Monitor. 

Euro-Med Monitor called on Belgium to guarantee to all applicants of international
protection health care and a dignified standard of living at all times; to ensure their right to
material reception conditions from the moment they lodge their asylum application,
according to Art. 20(6) of the Reception Conditions Directive; and to fulfil their right to
apply for international protection as soon as possible, in compliance with Art.6 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive.

Finally, Euro-Med Monitor called on the European Commission to comply with European
asylum law and the Reception Conditions Directive and take appropriate enforcement measures when systematic concerns and violations are identified.