Kurt Desplenter

Mandatory vaccination for asylum seekers?

Belgian international development secretary Sammy Mahdi (Flemish Christian democrat) has said the federal government should consider mandatory vaccination of asylum seekers against coronavirus.  Mr Mahdi was responding to concerns in the seaside resort of Koksijde (West Flanders) where a former air force base is once again going to be used as an asylum centre.

Floods this summer in eastern Belgium have dented capacity to accommodate asylum seekers and this is why the centre in Koksijde is being reopened.  Evacuations from Afghanistan too have put pressure on the sector.

The Koksijde centre will accommodate 300 asylum seekers including 30 minors for a while. Mayor Vanden Bussche of Koksijde criticises the lack of consultation with regard to the reopening and speaks of a government ‘Diktat’.  He’s particularly concerned about the presence of minors.

“Our municipality has the oldest population in Flanders.  Nearly 90% of the population is immunised.  The arrival of 300 asylum seekers, who are unvaccinated, needlessly exposes our older residents to risk, especially with regard to new variants.”

Mr Mahdi understands the concerns, but also points to the need to use Koksijde air base as an overspill centre due to a “specific, spontaneous need”.

All asylum seekers, who arrive at the Klein Kasteeltje reception centre in Brussels, are tested and may be quarantined. 

“We try to vaccinate asylum seekers.  Some centres have high rates up to 80%.  It’s a different story elsewhere.  I believe we need to look at what else we can do.  As far as I’m concerned mandatory vaccination of asylum seekers is up for discussion.”

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