Tuesday

19th Jun 2018

MEPs pressure Belgium on Afghan asylum seekers in Brussels

  • Brussels: The government says there are regions in Afghanistan safe enough to return asylum seekers (Photo: aldask)

Two MEPs are seeking parliament-wide support to pressure the Belgian government not to expel Afghans living rough in a Brussels-city-centre church.

The head of the parliament’s leftist GUE group, Gabi Zimmer, along with Portuguese MEP Alda Sousa from the same faction, announced on Thursday (23 January) they would circulate a letter among euro-deputies to denounce Belgium’s treatment of the asylum seekers.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

“We are asking the Belgian government not to send them back to Afghanistan because it is not safe. We are demanding the government to change its position,” she said.

The MEPs want deputies from all the political groups to sign before sending the letter off to the Belgian minister of interior.

For the past two months, some 200 Afghans have been living it rough at the 17th century Beguinage Church in central Brussels.

Pews are pushed aside to make room for tents in an effort to keep the families warm throughout the winter months. The children are not being schooled.

Most are Sikhs and Hindus, who are persecuted for their religious beliefs in Afghanistan.

Thirty-year old Singh Ajmit brought his family in from Ghazni, a city in eastern Afghanistan, to Belgium after paying smugglers some $50,000. They flew in from Pakistan about three years ago.

“For many families, it’s [Belgium] a dead end,” he told this website. Many others in Afghanistan, he said, left for the UK because the Sikh community is more established in Britian.

Asked if it was worth the smuggling fee, he said his wife and mother are now safe.

Belgian authorities want the men, without families, to return voluntarily. All have refused with around a dozen from the group already expelled to Afghanistan last year.

A lawyer representing the group said the Belgian state recognises the inherit dangers in Afghanistan but says it argues that violence is primarily directed against foreign bodies and not civilians.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo met an Afghan delegation from the church on Christmas Eve last year, but refused their demand to remain on Belgian territory.

“What was the result of that? Not much,” said Fred Mawet, director of the Brussels-based NGO for migrants rights, CIRE.

Instead, the Belgian authorities requested they reintroduce their asylum claims.

“We think this path will lead to few real solutions,” said Mawet.

Some have already received negative responses.

Around 3 million Afghan refugees are in Pakistan. Last year, just over 1,300 asked for asylum in Belgium. Of those, just over half received some sort of protection status.

Around 20,000 asked for asylum throughout the whole of the EU, according to the EU statistical office Eurostat.

Tens of thousands of refugees are hoping to find safety in Europe but member states are reluctant hosts. Most of Syria’s 2.3 million war-torn refugees are found in overcrowded camps in neighbouring countries.

The EU, for its part, has offered member states €6,000 for each refugee they resettle but member states have agreed to resettle 12,000.

The overall broader treatment of migrants and the refugees in Europe is viewed by some aid organisations as an erosion of the EU’s own stated commitments to human rights.

Amnesty international’s secretary general Salil Shetty told EUobserver earlier this week that human rights in Europe in recent years are being neglected.

“If the EU doesn’t set its own house in order, I think it loses credibility and legitimacy to speak about the external world,” he said.

Investigation

UK unlawfully copying data from EU police system

The British government is abusing EU travel security systems, making and using illegal copies of outdated information, and putting innocent people at risk of being red-flagged.

GDPR - a global 'gold standard'?

The new EU privacy rules are touted as a global 'gold standard' - but Mexico's former data commissioner warns some nations are far from ready.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

News in Brief

  1. Report: EU to look at outsourcing asylum
  2. EU court orders Le Pen to repay EU parliament
  3. Commission needs time to assess German Dieselgate fine
  4. Merkel and Macron meet over migration and eurozone
  5. Salvini plans census of Roma communities
  6. Slovenia to take Croatia to court in border row
  7. Parliamentary setback over corruption in Romania
  8. Lords force new vote for UK parliament to influence Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us