In June 2016, the Belgian authorities decided to drastically reduce the number of reception centers for asylum seekers, both collective and individual. One of the consequences of this reorganization? Almost all the individual reception centers – centers which have accommodated thousands of refugees and are managed by Caritas and NGOs partners of the individual reception – disappear.
Florence Lobert, Head of the Caritas Hospitality Department: “For more than 17 years, Caritas, in collaboration with other NGOs, has been hosting asylum seekers in individual homes. This model offers a tailor-made individual accompaniment. It allows sheltered asylum seekers to maintain their autonomy and guarantee their privacy. It also protects their family life and encourages their integration into Belgian society. ”
AN ADDITIONAL PERIOD OF UNCERTAINTY
Although the decision was made nearly a year ago, residents of these individual dwellings have received a letter this week asking them to move. Fedasil thus gives them a new place of reception. For most families, this means moving to another individual dwelling (a local hosting initiative run by the CPAS). For others, this implies a return to a collective center, after months or years spent in individual dwellings. For others (for example, persons whose asylum application has been rejected but still entitled to medical care), the situation is still uncertain: they do not yet know where they will be transferred nor if the accompaniment procedures will continue.
The current residents of our individual network are largely families but also single women or men with or without children. For most of them, the asylum procedure is still ongoing – a period of stress and uncertainty.
“Transfers” are based on certain criteria – such as the country of origin or the current phase of the asylum procedure. Another part of the criteria is finding a new reception location to meet the specific needs of the asylum seeker. The variety of these needs can be explained by the diversity of profiles: a family with a sick child requires different support than a single, traumatized woman or a man with a disability. This is not self-evident, but it is crucial to ensure that the needs and responses are balanced.
Where we are concerned is that it is not included that children in school A are moved to a B town two months before the end of the school year. They will then have to start in a new school, as well as have the possibility of not finishing their year, especially as after April 1, schools are no longer required to enroll new students.
Caritas insists that the Belgian authorities avoids these situation and that the established transfer criteria are closely followed in order to continue to guarantee the dignity of each asylum seeker.