The Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole De Moor has decided that single male asylum seekers will no longer receive shelter in her country.
She called the decision a “necessary measure” as the Belgian system can no longer process the huge inflow of asylum seekers. De Moor wants the focus to be on families with children.
Fedasil – the agency responsible for managing asylum reception in Belgium – has received the directive to no longer grant single men access to its services.
“It is not a decision I wanted to take, but I don’t want to be behind the curve. That is why I am already taking the decision to reserve all available spots for families with children. I absolutely want to avoid children ending up on the streets,” De Moor stressed.
Belgium has been harbouring an increasing number of asylum seekers; on August 28, 260 people demanded shelter and 155 of them were families with children younger than 18.
The steady inflow means the country soon will reach its capacity limits, experts say.
De Moor compared Belgium, which has received 19,000 asylum seekers so far this year, with Portugal, which has taken in 1,500, despite both countries having more or less the same number of citizens.
Currently, there are more than 2,000 single men on waiting lists for shelter in Belgium and De Moor’s decision means they won’t be housed any time soon. It is unclear how long the ruling will be enforced.
Belgian law stipulates that every asylum seeker has the right to shelter and food while their asylum application is being assessed.
Migrant organisations are outraged over De Moor’s move and say the Belgian Government has failed in its duties.
Staatssecretaris voor Asiel en Migratie @Nicole_demoor heeft gisterenavond besloten om mannen die alleen aankomen in ons land en asiel aanvragen, niet langer op te vangen. Met deze maatregel zet de staatssecretaris zich volledig buiten de wet. https://t.co/7qPqaix4A6
— Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen (@VluchtwerkVl) August 30, 2023
Tine Claus of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, an activist organisation supporting asylum seekers, said: “Policymakers should never subordinate their humanitarian and legal obligations to the need they see for future structural reforms. Otherwise, every legal certainty in law disappears.”
Claus further noted that it was “particularly cynical” that a government not only displaces homeless people in Brussels but also puts refugees on the streets every day.
De Moor replied and said Belgium was handling more than its fair share of arrivals, adding: “Let’s also not lump everything together. I notice that reference is made to the situation at Brussels-South [train station]. During those [recent police] actions at the station, no asylum seekers are encountered.
“There are people hanging around there who have been ordered to leave the territory. The countries of origin are not cooperating,” she added.
According to right-wing opposition party Vlaams Belang, De Moor’s decision showed “the bankruptcy of the asylum model”. Party members pleaded for a structural approach “to contain the inflow and increase the outflow”.
The N-VA party called for the adoption of the Australian model where asylum offices would only operate outside of Europe, with zero tolerance towards illegal migration.
On the Left side of the aisle, parties are also angry. The youth branch of the socialists, which is part of the governing coalition, accused De Moor of being “incompetent and inhumane”.
Elke Van den Brandt, a minister in the Brussels Capital Region for the Greens, said that putting vulnerable single men on the street will lead to more trouble around the city’s train stations and promote drug trafficking.