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Belgium: Migrants’ stay extended, but no residence permit

(Photo source: V4 Agency)

By: V4 Agency

The immigrants who occupied a university in the capital have started a hunger strike to coerce authorities into granting them residence permits, but the state secretary in charge of asylum and migration is adamant that he will only assist in transferring the rejected migrants back to their home countries.

The migrants, who first attracted public attention in early February by settling in a church and then taking over the canteen of the Free University of Brussels, have made their presence felt again. The undocumented illegals have been staying in Brussels’s Beguinage church and in certain buildings of Brussels’ Free Universities (VUB and ULB), in an attempt to force authorities to grant them residence permits, despite the fact that their applications were previously rejected.

In order to succeed, they started a hunger strike. Everyone participates in their protest, expect for the children, and they are also enjoy the support of sympathisers who help to highlight their problem, bx1 news television reported.

The Dutch-speaking VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) has called on the undocumented migrants to reconsider their hunger strike, adding that it understands their desperation over their hopeless situation. ULB’s management concened a meeting and eventually decided to allow the migrants to stay another month in the building they’d occupied in February. Last week, the migrants were offered a 150-sqm room which can accommodate 30 people on the university’s Solbosch campus. With them, the number of people already staying on campus has reached 140. Another 76 people are staying in VUB’s canteen, and an additional 250 people are quartered in the Beguinage church.

Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi rejected the request of the hunger-striking migrants, underlining that temporary residence permits are issued on a case-by-case basis, as all cases are different.

He added that yielding to the migrants’ demands would also encourage others to try and stay in the country as long as possible, because it would send out the message that – sooner or later – anyone would be granted a residence permit. It’s impossible to make a decision that is good for all, he said, suggesting that those with denied applications should return to their home country and work for their future there.

Sammy Mahdi offered help to the expelled refugees to return to their homeland. He also called on them to end their hunger strike, claiming that it could have a serious, negative effect on their health in the long run. He added that he was open to negotiation, Belgian paper La Libre writes.

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