The Belgian Council of State, the country’s supreme court, has ruled that the decision by the Belgian Government to stop giving shelter to single male migrants is illegal.
The court said that the decision by Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor was in conflict with the “right of reception”.
“At this stage of the procedure, the Council of State considers that the decision does not comply with the right to reception granted to all asylum seekers by the Law of 12 January 2007 on the reception of asylum seekers and certain other categories of aliens,” the Council said in a press release.
De Moor will not have been surprised by the ruling. “I’m under no illusions. The Council of State will say that everyone has the right to reception,” she told the media on September 12. “But it’s not because the Council of State says that, we suddenly have thousands of extra places to do that.”
On September 13, she stated on X that her position remained the same. “My policy will not change: absolute priority will go to families and children.”
Geen plaatsen op overschot. Schorsing Raad van State zorgt niet dat we opeens wel plaats hebben voor iedereen. Mijn beleid zal dus niet veranderen: absolute prioriteit gaat naar gezinnen en kinderen.
— Nicole de Moor (@Nicole_demoor) September 13, 2023
She also stated that there needed to be a “new European migration policy”, as promoted by European Commission President Urusla von der Leyen in her State of the Union speech on the same day. In that address, von der Leyen proposed migration deals in the mould of the one the European Union has with Tunisia as a possibility.
For now, the situation on the streets will remain the same in Belgium given the lack of means to accommodate single males and the prioritisation of shelter for families and children.
Belgian law stipulates that material aid must be provided to all those who apply for international protection. That entails shelter, food, clothing, medical, social and psychological support, a daily allowance and access to legal assistance and services such as interpreters and others.
Currently, there are more than 2,000 single men on waiting lists for shelter but there is no more available.
When the Belgian Government formally decided to stop give shelter to such migrants, eight organisations filed an urgent request for a suspension of the move with the courts.
De Moor’s predecessor as state secretary for migration Sammy Mahdi criticised the government, albeit it from a different standpoint. He said there should not be a bar on shelter for single men but, rather, a temporary full stop on asylum for all.
“This war of attrition must stop. Give the people on the ground time to catch their breath. Belgium cannot digest everything alone.”
Tom Van Grieken, president of the opposition party Vlaams Belang, said in a reaction to Brussels Signal that the court had thwarted what he called De Moor’s PR stunt. “The asylum policy of De Moor … is bankrupt,” he said.
The progressive co-president of the Green party Jeremie Vaneeckhout reacted from a more humanitarian perspective. “Reminder: standing up for the fundamental rights of children is not a licence to structurally negate other people’s fundamental rights,” he said.
“There’s nothing Christian or social about that. No matter how much you try to sell it. It is and remains dehumanisation.”