Context: From emergency to vulnerability
Caritas’s efforts have traditionally focused on receiving asylum seekers in individual housing. However, following the sudden arrival of a significantly higher amount of asylum seekers in Belgium in the summer of 2015, we opened two collective reception centers to respond to this humanitarian demand. One is situated in Spa, and the other in Scherpenheuvel. Since then, the situation has changed, and we have closed the emergency reception center in Spa. The second remains open, but the residents it receives have since changed.
In March 2018, the Council of Ministers decided to close all remaining emergency reception centers for asylum seekers, including our reception center in Scherpenheuvel. The government then went back on its decision and asked us to take in a different type of person: those in vulnerable situations (young people, people with health or psychosocial issues, etc.). We resultingly began improving the building’s accessibility and adapting ourselves to the needs of our new residents. Currently, we can receive and care for 144 people.
Action: individualized, quality care
Asylum seekers have the right to reception throughout the asylum process. Reception includes housing, but also includes meals, clothing, medical, social, psychological, and legal care, a daily allowance, and professional training.
In Scherpenheuvel, a team of 25 people welcome asylum seekers and accompany them throughout their daily lives. Their skills are as varied as the needs of the residents: social workers, nurses, lawyers, night school teachers, etc. Their tasks range from the training and care of residents, to disseminating information, and to guiding residents according to their needs in different aspects of their everyday lives. This can mean anything from helping children integrate into their school environments, to helping (re)construct social networks, helping to find training, housing, and employment, etc. Psychosocial support is also guaranteed to residents through personalized and tailored care. If needed, we also provide individual or group psychological care.
Emphasis: Assistance during the asylum process
Particular emphasis is placed on providing individual and quality legal assistance. This consists of informing, guiding and advising residents on the choices to be made in the context of their asylum or residence procedure and on their right to reception. This support allows them to understand and take part in their legal proceedings, and to make better-informed decisions, which appear more legitimate as a result.