Kurt Desplenter

Asylum seekers to be housed at Koksijde Air Base after all

The municipal authorities in the West Flemish seaside town of Koksijde have had a change of heart. They are now prepared to allow part of the Koksijde Air Base to be used as a temporary reception centre for asylum seekers. The decision has come about as a result of talks between the Minister responsible for asylum and migration in Belgium’s caretaker federal government Maggie De Block (Flemish liberal) and the Mayor of Koksijde, her party colleague Marc Vanden Bussche.     

In 2016 the empty buildings at the air base proved ideal accommodation for around than 300 asylum seekers.

However, when Maggie De Block asked the municipal authorities in Koksijde if the buildings could be used again as a temporary reception facility for around 400 asylum seekers, the Mayor of Koksijde Marc Vandden Bussche told her no.

He cited extra work as a result of Brexit, understaffing at the local police service and the issue of people smuggling in the area around the Flemish coast. Moreover, the municipal authorities said that they had plans for the disused buildings at the air base.   

In the period just after Christmas Mr Vanden Bussche and Ms de Block held talks and were able to reach a compromise. Now 300 rather than 400 asylum seekers will be housed at the Koksijde Air Base. Their stay will be temporary and they should be gone by the start of the tourist season.