Wednesday

22nd Nov 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 for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes

The former Bosnian Serb warlord was sentenced to life in prison for committing genocide and war crimes in Srebrenica and Sarajevo. Mladic is still regarded as a 'hero' among some Bosnian Serbs, in a country undergoing resurgent nationalism.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

EU Parliament 'cookie' restrictions worry online media

The European Parliament and groups representing newspapers and magazines are at odds over how new privacy rules will affect the media, especially restrictions on website cookies - but one MEP thinks it could spark new business models.

MEP switches vote on 'private expenses' transparency

A small group of MEPs are looking into how members of the European Parliament spend the monthly €4,300 'private expenses' funded by taxpayer money. Last month, MEPs voted on transparency amendments on the funds.

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban