File photo of the Porte d'Ulysse shelter in Belgium | Photo: InfoMigrants
File photo of the Porte d'Ulysse shelter in Belgium | Photo: InfoMigrants

The rules regarding access to accommodation for two categories of asylulm seekers and refugees in Belgium are being tightened according to the Minister for Asylum and Migration in the country. The measure was described as "illegal" by migrant support associations, including the very active Citizens' Platform for Refugee Support in Brussels.

The Belgian Minister for Asylum and Migration, Maggie de Block, announced a new measure on Saturday January 4 that will considerably tighten the conditions for asylum seekers eligible for accommodation in Belgium.

The measure prescribes that two groups of people will no longer benefit from unconditional reception and therefore from accommodation places: those who have already obtained refugee status in another country but who wish to settle in Belgium, and those who, after having been subject to the Dublin procedure, apply for asylum in that country at the end of the six-month latency period.

The announcement worries associations, such as the Citizens' Platform for Refugee Support, which manages citizen accommodation in Brussels. InfoMigrants spoke with the organization’s spokesperson, Mehdi Kassou.

InfoMigrants: What is your reaction to this announcement by the Minister of Asylum and Migration?

Mehdi Kassou: It is a unilateral decision that makes no sense. Either the government is communicating very poorly or this measure is not feasible.

After six months, a person who was subject to the Dublin procedure (which rules that someone should apply for asylum in the first EU country of entry) has the right to apply for asylum in Belgium and thus to benefit from legal, medical and financial protection. Cutting off this material protection is inconceivable!

But since it is complicated to send that category of person back to the first country of arrival in Europe, the government decided to cut the aid. The administration is looking for solutions to ease the burden on reception facilities, but these are not the right ones.

InfoMigrants : What are the consequences on the ground for migrants and for your association?

Mehdi Kassou: For several days now, rumors have been circulating among migrants, so this is no surprize to them. On the other hand, this measure adds to the incomprehension because nothing is clear. We ourselves have had no information since Maggie de Block's announcement. How can we inform them if we ourselves lack details?

I am afraid that with this measure we will receive even more people in need. We're going to have to take on more accommodation over longer periods of time.

It's completely surreal! When migrants start asylum procedures, it's endless. During their six-month Dublin period, we were already providing them with shelter. What is it going to be like if we add the former Dublined people who have become asylum seekers?

Every night, 230 people are housed with families and between 80 and 120 sleep on the streets for lack of a solution. That number is likely to increase. In addition, the homeless services in Brussels will be saturated very quickly.

InfoMigrants: How do you see the future?

Mehdi Kassou: According to the preliminary findings of the lawyers, this measure is totally illegal. It must therefore be repealed.

Theo Francken, the former Minister of Asylum and Migration, tweeted this weekend: "This measure seems to me just as risky as introducing asylum quotas, but at least something is happening." When a former minister says such things, it proves that there are doubts about the legality of this measure. It sounds like an announcement!

We, for our part, are keeping a close eye on the situation. We are ready for battle. We're waiting to see how things play out on the ground before deciding what to do next. We're going to get together with other associations to see what action to take.


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