Geneva - In an urgent letter to the Belgian government, Euro-Med Monitor raised today the issue of asylum seekers left homeless in the country.
“It has come to our attention that over 700 asylum seekers have resorted to living in an abandoned building on Paleis Street in Brussels for months out of acute desperation as they continue to wait to be provided with shelter,” read the letter to Belgium’s Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor.
The letter raised the concerning physical and mental health faced by said asylum seekers, who mainly come from Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Eritrea and Morocco. “They are in danger as a result of living in an abandoned facility with severely inadequate housing conditions, without water, blankets, or health services.”
“On New Year’s Eve, it is unfathomable and wholly inappropriate for one of the richest countries in the world and the capital of the European Union to leave hundreds of asylum seekers stranded in the cold, sleeping rough in the streets or at abandoned buildings,” said Ramy Abdu, Chairman of Euro-Med Monitor.
Euro-Med Monitor noted that while relevant Belgian authorities have complained about lack of space to shelter asylum seekers for more than a year, the government of Belgium has a clear and unquestionable obligation under international and EU laws to provide reasonable material conditions and shelter to asylum applicants. Particularly in accordance with Article 3 of the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees.
Abdu pressed the Belgian government for answers on “what measures, if any, has been taken by the Belgian government to tackle this growing crisis of shelter, as well as the long queues and slow processing of asylum claims.”
The letter called on the Belgian government to urgently intervene and ensure the provision of adequate shelter and access to health services to all asylum seekers who have submitted a claim in the country. It also called for expediting the process of reviewing asylum claims so that a decision of acceptance or rejection is provided within a reasonable time.