As winter comes, Belgian families take in refugees

Belgian families open doors to refugees in Brussels to save them from the cold as they process asylum applications

As winter comes, Belgian families take in refugees

World Bulletin / News Desk

 Winter is coming and 32-year-old Algerian mother, Malfi Farah, is worried over how to keep her two young daughters warm at a refugee camp in Brussels.

Five years have passed since Malfi fled to Belgium from Algeria, which she said provided no work or life opportunities for her, but she still has not received asylum from the Belgian authorities.

"The weather has gotten colder; I don’t want to live inside a tent anymore," she tells Anadolu Agency.

"I have my children to think about; all I want is justice," Malfi said, adding that she’s waiting for asylum – after five years – so she can eventually start looking for a job to take care of her family.

Despite having a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter born in Belgium, the whole family is still stuck in a citizenship limbo.

University-educated Malfi is one of hundreds of migrants in Brussels camping at a park outside a refugee center and waiting for their turn to apply for asylum. 

But as summer is over and harsher weather conditions are approaching, the Belgian authorities have begun to evacuate the camp and volunteers are helping to relocate the refugees to 96 Belgian families willing to open their homes.

"Hundreds of people have opened up their doors so we can actually shelter refugees within families up to the point where they can get into the migration office and get their paperwork done," Bram de Smet, a 37-year-old volunteer at the refugee center told Anadolu Agency.

The refugees are allowed to stay with Belgian families for up to nine days in order to win time to process their applications for asylum, which would oblige the Belgian authorities to provide shelter.

While European citizens are willing to open their homes to help the refugees, EU heads of government have failed to agree on how to distribute thousands of incoming refugees – mostly from the Middle East – across the 28-nation bloc.

"I think it’s a failure on Europe’s behalf; there is no unity in Europe anymore. It is outrageous that certain countries can say ‘no’ to the refugee problem," de Smet said.

"We don’t consider [this] a refugee problem… what we have is not a crisis… in Belgium we are talking about 150 per day that come … it’s nothing [compared to] Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan," he added.

EU rules state the country where a refugee first arrives must process their asylum claim. 

But because the EU lacks a common asylum policy, with different countries handling asylum in different ways, disputes between member states over the distribution of refugees across the bloc have arisen.  

Hate speech and hostility

Despite the held offered to people like Malfi Farah and her family, the atmosphere in some EU countries is not so welcoming.

The European Commission, which wants EU member states to penalize hate speech, said in a statement on Thursday the “current refugee crisis has seen a great deal of negative language and hate speech resurfacing about those arriving, with far-right movements and populist discourses exploiting the situation".

"Worrying verbal and physical attacks, including online hate speech targeting asylum seekers and refugees have been reported in a number of countries," it added.

Slovakia has made clear it will only accept Christian refugees and not Muslims. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has described the influx of refugees as a threat to Europe’s "Christian roots," and responded to the crisis by erecting a fence on its southern border with Serbia. 

According to Eurobarometer, 50 percent of Europeans believe discrimination based on religion is widespread; this figure is up from 39 percent in 2012.




Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Ekim 2015, 10:04