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Belgium halts shelter for single men seeking asylum

August 30, 2023

Facing increasing housing pressure, Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor wants to prioritize women and children. The decision has been criticized by human rights organizations.

Refugees arrive at the IND application center in Ter Apel
Image: Eva Plevier/ANP/IMAGO

The Belgian government's decision to not provide shelter for single men seeking asylum was met with dismay on Wednesday by political figures and human rights organizations.

Places are to be reserved exclusively for families with children, the Belgian state secretary for asylum and migration, Nicole de Moor, announced, arguing insufficient capacity meant families, women and children should be given priority.

Belgium overburdened with housing asylum seekers

Housing pressure

De Moor said pressure on asylum housing was expected to go up in the coming months and she was adamant that children must not "end up in the streets this winter."

Nicole de Moor
Nicole de Moor said more pressure on asylum housing is anticipatedImage: Benoit Doppagne/Belga/dpa/picture alliance

According to the EU Agency for Asylum, male applicants last year accounted for 71% of asylum claims across the bloc and associated countries Iceland, Israel, Norway, Serbia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

At the end of last year, some 636,000 cases were pending at first instance.

Belgium's move was met with criticism from rights organizations, with the 46-nation Council of Europe hitting out.

Some lawmakers also took a dim view of the government's decision.

"I deeply regret this," said Petra De Sutter, deputy prime minister from coalition partner Groen party according to news agency Belga. "What Secretary of State de Moor has decided amounts to formalizing a policy for which our country has been condemned countless times."

'Burying' human rights

"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 Amnesty International's Belgium director Philippe Hensmans said.

De Moor said that the influx of asylum-seekers in the last two years in Belgium had filled shelters to near capacity, which is 33,500. Last year, Belgium had nearly 37,000 applications for protection, according to the country's federal agency for asylum, Fedasil.

jsi/jcg (AP, dpa)