Dozens of refugees spend the night outside

Dozens of refugees in Brussels had to spend the night outside last night. All the beds for those that are waiting to apply were taken. It's the first time since the extra accommodation places in the WTC building were created, that people had to be refused.

The so-called pre-accommodation places were created last summer to provide extra shelter. This was because the Immigration Office in Brussels can't cope with the long queues of refugees that want to apply for a residence permit.

They receive shelter across the country once they have made their application and while this is being treated (the so-called bed-bath-bread principle as the State Secretary for Asylum Theo Francken puts it), but there were no beds for those waiting to start up the procedure. This led a whole campsite popping up at the Maximilian Park just across the road.

This problem was fixed by creating 500 extra places in the WTC office tower, close to the Immigration Office. It's the Red Cross that is taking care of the practical stuff. However, for the time since the places were created last summer, all the beds were taken and people had to be refused.

"Most vulnerable people come first"

"Some 80 young men were sent back, with 20 of them eventually sleeping just in front of the building", the VRT journalist Marjan Temmerman witnessed this morning.

Ann Luyten of the Red Cross explains that "the most vulnerable persons receive priority when all beds are taken. "Families with young children, weaker and older people come first. Young, strong men are at the end of the line", she says.

Numbers of refugees coming in had dropped in recent weeks, but climbed again last weekend, which created the problem. The Immigration Office wants to wait to see if the numbers remain high, or whether it was just a temporary peak. In the former case, extra pre-accommodation will have to be created.