Brussels hunger strikers stitch up their mouths

A group of over 400 undocumented people, who have been on hunger strike for a month now, have taken their protest up a notch.  Four of their number have had their mouths stitched shut.  Asylum secretary Sammy Mahdi insists no collective regularisation for this group is planned.

It was on 23 May that the hunger strike started at the Beguinage Church in Brussels and on campuses of the Free Universities of Brussels.

Mr Mahdi (Flemish Christian democrat) says the rules need to be observed and he can’t press through a regularisation “because people go on hunger strike”. Francophone socialist and green coalition partners have called for the situation to be resolved, but the Flemish socialists continue to support Mr Mahdi.

“A collective regularisation is out of the question” says lawmaker Ben Segers (Vooruit/Flemish socialist).  “A lot of asylum, family reunification and labour migrations procedures exit.  Regularisation is an exception. It’s a favour not a right”. 

People in a pressing humanitarian crisis situation can be regularised.  “Rightly so” says Mr Segers. “It’s a flexible concept needed because individual situations can vary enormously.”

The lawmaker insists undocumented people can meet with success when they apply for regularisation.  When the last government started there were a thousand regularisations a year.  The figure rose to 3,300 by the end of the last parliament.

Meanwhile the health situation of the hunger strikers has deteriorated enormously.  Doctors are very worried.  Four young men have now had their mouths stitched up and will only drink via a straw.  “It’s a symbolic gesture.  They want to say they have nothing to say, but are also making it clear they really are not eating anything” says Dr Rita Van Obberghen.

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