The Samusocial in Koekelberg has recently been housing people at Brussels-Midi station in agreement with the SNCB. “In the past two months, 75 Ukrainian refugees have already spent the night there, curled up on chairs, benches or on the floor,” the newspaper De Standaard said on Thursday.
This is the case of this Russian-Ukrainian couple, interviewed by Het Laatste Nieuws, who slept in the streets of Brussels for two weeks with their 7-year-old daughter. “We thought this country was a rule of law, but no one can help us,” they tell our colleagues. The man is a 33 year old Russian, who did not want to take part in the war and who was tortured in Russia. She, a 34-year-old Ukrainian, who fled her country with her 7-year-old daughter. And for several months, they have been living in hell: “All we want is to build a new life here in Belgium. Our child must go to school”.
While many asylum seekers know the harsh reality of the streets, the situation is new for Ukrainians. Since the beginning of the war, the latter have benefited from a temporary protection status and follow a different path from that of other refugees.
According to the usual procedure, after registering with the Foreigners’ Office, they are assigned by Fedasil a place of reception in one of the three regions – generally after a stopover at the Ariane transit center (Woluwe-Saint -Lambert). In the first half of October, Fedasil was still hosting 250 Ukrainians there; but since then, nobody. The center is overcrowded because the flow to the regions is congested. Ukrainians seeking shelter must therefore contact the CPAS directly, Mr. Fedasil said.
Samusocial says it is very worried at the dawn of winter, fearing an influx of homeless people, asylum seekers and now Ukrainians, looking for shelter to spend the night in the warmth.
Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Nicole de Moor (CD&V) confirmed on Thursday, on the microphone of the De Ochtend program on Radio 1, that the Fedasil emergency reception center was currently saturated due to the lack of places in the regions, particularly in Wallonia. According to the Secretary of State. The Regions have meanwhile undertaken to create additional places “as soon as possible”, she added.
Fedasil no longer finds a reception place in the municipalities
The Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (Fedasil) admitted on Thursday evening that Ukrainian refugees who had recently arrived in Belgium were forced to spend the night in a reception center for homeless people located at the Brussels train station. – Midday, due to a lack of places in the Ariane federal transit center in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert.
People fleeing the war in Ukraine and arriving in Belgium are registered by the Foreigners’ Office at the Eurostation, a building located near Brussels-Midi station. From there, those who do not have accommodation with friends or family are, in principle, directed by Fedasil to another municipality. As long as this is not the case, they are welcomed in a Red Cross emergency center in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert.
But because this center, called Ariane, is full, Ukrainian refugees have to spend the night in a homeless shelter or at the Midi station, said Fedasil communications director Mieke Candaele.
“It’s true that the federal emergency shelter hasn’t been used for a few weeks, but that’s the consequence of the fact that welcoming Ukrainians (at the Ariane center, editor’s note) takes far too long, because that we no longer find a place in the communes,” added Ms. Candaele.
According to Candaele, Ukrainian refugees currently spend an average of 72 days in emergency shelters. But some people have been there for six months.
“Currently, 250 places are planned for Ukrainian refugees in the Ariane building. Given the current influx, this should suffice if the emergency accommodation for these people does not last more than five days. But we are unable to transfer them to the municipalities,” she added.
“At Fedasil, we have people who call towns and municipalities all day and who simply cannot find a place,” explained Ms. Candaele.