Belgian immigration department ignores UN children's rights commission

The United Nations children's rights commission has ordered the release of a Serbian family of failed asylum seekers being kept in Belgium's removal centre at Steenokkerzeel outside Brussels, but the Belgian immigration department has decided to ignore the order.


The UN commission says that the incarceration of the Serbian family will have incontrovertible consequences for the physical and mental development of the children.  The Serbians, a mother and her four children, were the first to be locked up in the new family unit at Steenokkerzeel in anticipation of their removal.  A new asylum application meant their repatriation could not go ahead in the legally prescribed time.  As a result they were moved to an open unit, where the family absconded.  After being found they were returned to the closed removal centre.

The UN children's rights commission has been able to consider individual complaints since 2011.  It now argues that everything must be done to avoid the children experiencing irreparable damage.  The Belgian immigration department claims the commission isn't competent in this case and is refusing to free the mother and her four children.

Hind Riad of Progress Lawyers Network, who represents the family, says they are incredulous and points to the fact that Belgium ratified the UN complaints system in 2014: "As far as children's rights are concerned this is the most important body in the world.  We don't understand how the Belgian immigration department can ignore it!”