Belgium bans shelters for single male asylum seekers making space for women, families

Refugees wait for a bus from Greece to Belgium. — AFP
Refugees wait for a bus from Greece to Belgium. — AFP

The Belgian government has disallowed housing single men seeking refuge; claiming that families, women, and children should be the first priority due to the country’s limited asylum capacity.

Aid organisations criticised this action for violating international agreements.

Long lines of tents lining the sidewalks outside the main processing station in Brussels have become a stain on Belgium’s reputation, and the country has long faced condemnation for not offering enough refuge to the thousands of people seeking safety from persecution at home.

Refugee State Secretary Nicole de Moor stated on Wednesday that she “absolutely wants to avoid that children will end up in the streets this winter” and that she anticipated more demand for refugee housing during the upcoming months. Single males will need to fend for themselves instead.

“We thought we’d seen it all, but no. The Belgian government isn’t just sitting on human rights, it’s burying them by ‘suspending’ the reception of single male asylum-seekers,” said Philippe Hensmans, director of Amnesty International Belgium.

De Moor was lamenting that the country of 11.5 million people has nearly reached the 33,500 capacity of the shelter centres due to the flood of asylum seekers over the previous two years.

According to the government agency Fedasil, nearly 37,000 applications for protection were submitted to Belgium last year.

Along with the asylum seekers, Belgium is also providing aid to around 62,000 Ukrainian refugees who were forced to flee the conflict Russia was waging in their nation.

Fedasil was found guilty more than 5,000 times in the past year alone for failing to provide suitable housing.

Still, said De Moor, “our country has already done more than its share for a long time,” and called on some other EU nations to increase their effort instead, TRT World reported.

The leading human rights organisation in Europe urged Belgian authorities to help asylum seekers more effectively in December after tens of thousands of people spent the night in the severe cold on the streets of Brussels.

According to the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, the rights of asylum seekers to health care and other fundamental necessities are being jeopardised by the shortage of spaces in receiving centres.

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