Under normal conditions, each asylum seeker arriving in Belgium is guaranteed a bed, food and a shower after filing an application - and this as long as the procedure takes. This "bed, bad, brood" principle may be a simple one, but the Belgian state has a major shortage of accommodation places. The queues are long and many people can't be helped the same day. It is mostly men who are being refused as families, women and children are being given priority.
Local residents say that what they are seeing is incredible for the year 2022. "I have been living here for 25 years. Look, is this normal? They are lying there, like sardines in a can. (...) If you would come back at 4 o'clock in the night, you would see three times as many people", one man told the VRT. (click on the video to play)
Dirk Van den Bulck, the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons, admits that things are not going as they should, adding that it is an embarrassment for the Belgian state. "It shouldn't be like this. But the political will to change things is there."
Meanwhile, the Belgian state has been convicted about 1,000 times since the start of this year for not being able to provide a basic right under European law. Measures have been taken to address this problem - capacity is being extended and the procedure should become shorter - but it will take some time before the effect can be seen.
Van den Bulck says that the number of decisions on applications has grown a lot lately, that the backlog is being reduced and that things should improve soon. "I can't guarantee it for 100 percent, but I think that nobody will have to spend the night on the street by the start of the winter."