Children’s Rights Commissioner condemns Armenian family’s incarceration in secure migrant facility

The Flemish Children Rights Commissioner Bruno Vanobbergen has condemned the incarceration of an Armenian family in the secure asylum facility 127 bis in the Flemish Brabant municipality of Steenokkerzeel. Monday’s edition of the daily ‘Gazet van Antwerp’ quotes Mr Vanobbergen as saying that there had been no contact between the Aliens’ Office and the family in the 4.5 years before they were detained and taken to Steenokkerzeel. 

The Armenian family, a couple with 2 daughters aged 8 and 2, were detained at their flat in the Antwerp District of Borgerhout. They were taken to the families’ unit of the secure migrant facility in Steenokkerzeel.  

The Flemish Children’s Rights Commission Bruno Vanobbergen says that this is inadmissible.  

He told the paper that "From the case file here it is obvious that the Aliens’ Office doesn’t believe that children’s interests are important. This case has been handled poorly without taking into account the children”.    

The Armenian couple first arrived in Belgium in 2009. They were first detained with the oldest of their two children in 2014 as they asylum application had been rejected. They were taken to an open centre that houses people awaiting deportation. However, they ran away. Since then they have had no contact with the Aliens’ Office.  

"For 4.5 years the family has had no contact with the Aliens Office. Housing a family in a secure unit must be the very last resort and only used if other measures have been shown not to work. They should have first tried preparing the family for deportation with coaching and information given to them in the home”, Mr Vanobbergen added.           

However, according to the Aliens’ Office all procedures have been correctly followed

"Since 2014 the family has been invited several times to coaching sessions to prepare for voluntary deportation. However, they didn’t respond. They put in a new regularisation request in May 2018, but apart from that we have never heard anything from them”.