Bruno Fortea Miras |
Brussels, (EFE).- Huddled in tents, with the right clothes to face the winter cold and with the food that citizens and entities give them, dozens of migrants have been sleeping for weeks next to the Brussels canal, at the gates of the largest reception center in Belgium, in the hope of obtaining political asylum.
Most of the campers are young men, especially from Afghanistan, although there are also some who come from Burundi, Eritrea or Palestine and who, once they arrive in Belgium, find themselves with an overwhelmed public system, with a lack of places in the centers reception, and that, in the meantime, cannot guarantee them a roof.
The Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil), the public entity in charge of hosting refugees in Belgium, already warned at the end of 2022 that its network of centers was saturated, and admitted that, for a little over a year, it is common to see asylum seekers sleeping on the streets.
This is the case of Assad, a 21-year-old Afghan boy who has been living on the street for nine months, as he explained in statements to EFE: “Why don’t they give us passports?” asks the young man, who affirms that in his country He worked as a vehicle driver.
Another Afghan man assures that he has been without a home in Belgium for half a year and, responding to EFE’s questions from the tent in which he sleeps, details that the Red Cross is one of the entities that has given them food while they live in the street.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is another of the organizations that has acted to try to improve the conditions of these nearly 200 migrants, according to the NGO’s calculations, who are camping on the Brussels canal, in front of the reference reception center for refugees in Belgium, the so-called Petit Chateau (Little Castle).
“The situation is very unworthy for a city like Brussels, in northern Europe. Until two weeks ago, people had no access to water or any way to go to the bathroom, so they relieved themselves in the street or in the canal,” says David Vogel, MSF policy manager in Belgium, in a statement to EFE.
To reverse this situation, the NGO has installed booths with toilets and supplies drinking water to migrants through a hydrant connected to the network, something that, according to Vogel, “does not fit the type of operations” that MSF usually does in Belgium, but rather in other parts of the world.
Apart from this, the entity also conducts medical consultations and offers psychological care to the camped asylum seekers, who during the day can go to a center co-managed by MSF where there are showers, they carry out activities and receive clothes and food.
At the health level, Vogel points out that they have detected cases of scabies in 80% of the camped migrants who have been treated by Doctors Without Borders doctors, although there are also patients with tuberculosis or other serious diseases, such as HIV or cancer, who they had not received any treatment.
There are also Belgian citizens who come to the camping area to help individual migrants. This is the case of Sophie, who lives two streets from the place, and who has already gone several times to give them food, mattresses and, above all, slippers, since some of them wear flip-flops.
“I went to the supermarket with these people and asked them if they wanted anything. I talked to them a bit, and they told me they needed shoes, shoes and more shoes. I asked my friends if they could lend me some, and now I give all the shoes I can”, Sophie explains in statements to EFE.
Earplugs are another item that asylum seekers have asked Sophie for, as they are camped out next to one of Brussels’ radial avenues, in a heavily trafficked area.
For Arianne, a resident of the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, the situation in which these migrants live is “unacceptable” and, for this reason, she has brought them coats and blankets that she did not need.
“It is a difficult situation for us, as Africans. I know what this is, and I have not hesitated at any time to give them a hand. They are in a very precarious state,” Arianne told EFE.
In Brussels, according to the calculations of several NGOs, between 2,000 and 3,000 asylum seekers who arrived in the heart of Europe in search of international protection sleep on the streets, but who, for the moment, survive in tents or on makeshift beds made of cardboard. .