Friday

22nd Sep 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

Hungary and Poland defy EU authority

Hungary and Poland have said they "don't want a mixed population", amid a tug-of-war with the Commission on migrants and rule of law.

EU agency to fight election hacking

A new-model EU cybersecurity agency could help states defend their elections against "hybrid attacks", the Commission has said.

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  2. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  3. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  5. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  6. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  9. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  10. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  11. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  12. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies