Friday

27th May 2016

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“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.

News in Brief

  1. Syrian refugees sue Denmark over immigration law
  2. Ukraine bans Gorbachev for backing Crimea's seizure
  3. Dozens dead in two shipwrecks outside Libya
  4. Slovak PM says his country is no place for Muslims
  5. Juncker's spin-doctor warns of populist 'horror'
  6. EU urges Hungary to end discrimination of Roma children
  7. Majority of voters think UK will stay in EU
  8. Leading MEP says Greek bailout will not work

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAEducation and Training 2020 - Giving Young People the Workplace Skills They Need
  2. EPSUTrade Unions Back New Undeclared Work Platform
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCould targeting children’s fitness boost academic performance?
  4. World VisionDeclares the World Humanitarian Summit a Positive Step in a Longer Journey to Ending Need
  5. EJCPresident Dr. Moshe Kantor on Brexit and the Jewish Question
  6. Swedish EnterprisesNew rules for posted workers - Better Protection or the End of Posting ?
  7. World VisionWhy The EU Needs to Put Children at the Centre of Emergencies - In Their Words
  8. ACCASustainability Reporting in Danger of Losing Its Momentum Says ACCA and CDSB
  9. Dialogue PlatformDiversity as Heritage of Humanity! Join the “Colors of the World“ Show at the EP
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersNew Responses to the Basque Peace Process? MEP Juaristi on Stateless Challenges Conference
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceImproving Cardiovascular Health Begins by Closing the Gap in Sex Disparities
  12. IPHRBrussels Talks to Take Stock of Human Rights in Turkmenistan