Two-thirds of asylum places in army barracks will disappear

Belgian Defence Minister Pieter De Crem (Flemish Christian democrat) intends to axe two-thirds of the 2,100 reception places at asylum centres in army barracks. A decision to close asylum centres housed in Belgian army bases was taken last July.

Mr De Crem has confirmed the government's plan not to place any further asylum seekers in such reception centres from November onwards.

The Defence Minister says that there is no money. Asylum centres in Houthalen-Helchteren (Limburg) and Bastogne (Wallonia) are scheduled to close next month. In Weelde (Antwerp) 300 places remain available until May next year. In Bierset near Liège 700 asylum seekers can be housed until the end of 2014.

A spokesman for the secretary of state responsible for the asylum agency Fedasil, Philippe Courard (Francophone socialist), told the VRT that asylum seekers will not be removed from asylum centres in army bases. The spokesman's account even seemed to conflict with the minister's version of events suggesting that new asylum seekers could still be housed in army bases: "If there is a big influx of asylum seekers, it would be unreasonable not to use the existing capacity" he said.