In Belgium, the reception of asylum seekers is reaching saturation point

It is 7 am in Brussels, and the two queues are getting organized in peace, even if feet inadvertently hit sleeping bags spread out on the ground. Near the door of the arrival center of the Belgian agency for the reception of asylum seekers (Fédasil), five people sleep in an onion row, their faces whipped by the drizzle. A small group of men end their night under a plastic tarp, which serves as a makeshift tent.

To the right of the entrance, it is the line of “priority” audiences: unaccompanied minors, families, women, vulnerable people. On the left, that of single men. Some arrive with their suitcases from Senegal, Georgia, Eritrea and, above all, Afghanistan. . They wait their turn to register their asylum application and benefit from an initial reception, a few days, before being transferred to one of the 84 other structures in the country, time to review their procedure..

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Everyone waits in front of this red brick center with a vaguely medieval feel, nicknamed the “little castle”. First in the queue, Karim is surrounded by three companions in exile. He left Iraq a month ago. A ticket to Portugal before going back, by train, to Brussels. He has gleaned a few hours of sleep on the asphalt, but firmly maintains his first place. Further on, Abdullah, a Senegalese national who has wandered for more than two years, is grateful: “Someone saw me sleeping on the floor and gave me this jacket and gloves because it was cold and wet last night. ” Abzalshad, an Afghan, remains stoic. “I’m cold, but I’ll be fine. I crossed ten countries, mountains and forests. It has been four months since I left Afghanistan, shortly before the arrival of the Taliban. I am waiting to be able to bring my five children to Belgium. “

“It blocks at the political level”

This morning of December 28, 2021, all asylum seekers were able to enter. This is one of the first times this has happened since October 19. For two months, dozens of men, sometimes even children, were refused access to the “castle” and were forced to sleep in the surrounding streets and parks before registering their asylum application, because the home network is saturated. The accommodation centers now have 29,000 places, which are proving insufficient.

A temporary extension of the arrival center with 400 places was opened on December 24 by the Red Cross, making it possible to find emergency solutions. But the basic problem remains. On average, 110 people join the reception network every day via the arrival center, and 80 leave it because they have been granted asylum or are rejected. “We expect to have to refuse entries again in the coming weeks”, says a worker from Fédasil. On Monday January 3, at 9 a.m., 50 men were unable to enter the arrival center. They will sleep outside.

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In Belgium, the reception of asylum seekers is reaching saturation point

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