Last December accommodation had to be found for 35,000 asylum seekers, nearly double the number of the previous year. Within months a string of new reception centres was opened to provide accommodation for everybody.
The closure of the refugee route through the Balkans is partly responsible for the sharp fall in the number of new arrivals as more refugees are being stopped on the Turkish border. Today Belgium boasts 31,500 places while only 25,000 are occupied.
The asylum agency's Sara Verhaert notes that asylum seekers are spending shorter stays in the centres too because they are getting a decision more rapidly. Under plans up to 8,000 places for asylum seekers could be made ready at short notice.
Red Cross reception centres at Sijsele, Vilvoorde, Leopoldsburg, Mechelen and Zwijndrecht are for the chop. The Red Cross's An Luyten: "Many asylum seekers have already been moved to permanent centres operated by the Red Cross, Fedasil and other partners. Asylum seekers who are informed they will be allowed to stay are offered other accommodation. Others are obliged to leave Belgium."