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Doctors Without Borders condemns poor conditions in Brussels migrant camps

14:36 04/03/2023

The organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has denounced the deteriorating situation for migrants living on the streets outside Petit-Château in Brussels, where refugees go to file applications for asylum.

Belgium’s migration system has been overwhelmed by record numbers of asylum seekers, and the Brussels centre is unable to process the sheer number of applications.

As a result, refugees are forced to sleep on the street, often in tents along the canal in the neighbourhood of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has stepped up its operations in the area in response, installing basic sanitary facilities and providing medical care for the approximately 200 displaced people living in around 60 tents.

But with temperatures dropping to dangerous levels and still no solution in sight for the homeless migrants, MSF has strongly condemned the current situation, describing it to Le Soir as "chaotic" and "worthy of the Sahel countries", a region in Africa.

Despite the fact that many nights have been freezing, police ordered migrants to extinguish campfires that they created on the pavement to keep warm.

“You are here on the territory of Molenbeek and this cannot be done here,” asylum seekers were told by officers.

The order was met with protest, Bruzz reports, including from one who shouted: “I have virtually not eaten for three days and it is bitterly cold.”

Apart from the scathing condemnation from MSF and other human rights organisations, Belgium has come under fire for its inability to properly house refugees by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The state is facing penalty payments that have now climbed to €275 million, an amount that increases by €10,000 a day.

State secretary Nicole De Moor (CD&V) opposes the charges and stressed that the amount is “theoretical” because claimants will need to go through the courts to collect payment.

Immigration agency Fedasil has been convicted 5,991 times in court for the lack of reception, with another 1,132 judgments against the Belgian state from the ECHR.

Objects belonging to Fedasil were seized and sold through a public auction and a bailiff visited De Moor's office, but took nothing for now. An appeal is still pending.

Photo: Jonas Roossens/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons