For nearly two months now some 400 hunger strikers have been refusing food. Mr Mahdi says he’s following the situation hour by hour, but from the start made it clear a collective regularisation was not going to happen.
Doctors of the World that are supporting the sans papiers say that their condition is worsening rapidly. Some are refusing to drink. Four have had their mouths stitched up to symbolise the fact that they have no say.
“They are in a bad way. They are weak and their kidneys are under added pressure through their refusal to drink. Some have been hospitalised. One guy in his forties lost 13 kilos and needed an operation on kidney and liver” says Dr Melsens.
Their mental condition too is deteriorating.
“They are struggling to concentrate and some have become very volatile. There have been attempts at suicide. People have swallowed razors or the pills given to ease the pain.”
The greens and the Francophone socialists have asked the prime minister to step in. Tension resulting from this case reached fever pitch this morning when the Francophone socialists threatened to bring down the government if anybody died.
"We will leave the government within the hour if anybody dies" Francophone socialist Deputy PM Pierre Yves Dermagne told members of the inner cabinet.
“Nobody wants tragedy” says asylum secretary Mahdi, who got the head of the immigration department to speak with the hunger strikers in person to ascertain their condition. The protesters also have access to information on the legal route to regularisation and can speak with somebody in confidence.
“We hope that people will allow their dossier to be dealt with individually. We can’t offer concessions or a collective regularisation because that would trigger hunger strikes in churches up and down the land.”
Meanwhile the governing liberal – including the PM’s Open VLD - and Christian democrat parties continue to support Mr Mahdi.