Asylum Seeker Crisis in the Heart of Brussels

In our last newsletter on the asylum seeker crisis, we began with this sentence: “Over the last few months, the situation for people seeking asylum in Belgium has become more and more precarious.”. We would’ve hoped to have brought some good news in this newsletter and to say that there has been an improvement, but unfortunately this is still the case, and the situation is worsening day by day.

It is estimated that a shocking 6000 asylum seekers are expected to be sleeping on the streets this winter. This number does not take into account the thousands in the current homeless population outside of the asylum seeker group. The current state of affairs is breaking multiple international laws which state that anybody applying for international protection has the right to basic human rights, including housing. However, the Belgian state is currently not complying. The state is being hit with hundreds of legal cases where they haven’t complied, but any promises of action have not been kept. The Labour Court has already issued nearly 7,000 rulings condemning the Belgian state to comply with the law, with no change. Nearly 150 similar condemnations of Belgium by the European Court of Human Rights have not changed anything either.


We’ve all felt the cold arrive. Now imagine being sent to the streets wearing only flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt with no idea of where you’ll sleep tonight or where your next meal will come from. This is not only the case for men, but also for families with children and unaccompanied minors. For men within this group, the situation can often seem even more hopeless with them often being left out on the streets for months at a time with no word of when they’ll have a roof over their head. These people are dependent on humanitarian organisations such as Serve the City to help provide some safety, comfort and a sense that people care.

6 months ago, we thought handing out 350 lunch bags at our Lunch4All project was a busy day. Last week we gave a shocking 715 on one day alone. Alison, one of the project leaders for the project describes a now usual shift.

Arriving at the Hub Humanitaire, the Red Cross centre in Brussels, we see queues of people waiting for the doors to open. It’s cold outside and people are huddled together to stay warm. Most will have slept there on the pavement last night. We see that it’s busy, and calculate how many bags we will need. These days it’s usually between 600 and 700 bags which our team of 10-12 volunteers take 45 minutes to make. We’re ready at 12:30. The Red Cross team manages a queue of hundreds of people. We start the distribution and the line moves quickly. Despite the cold, despite their circumstances, the majority of people are friendly and grateful. After 30 minutes up to 450 people have received a meal and a hot drink. More people are still arriving, will we have enough? Some days we don’t. Our financial and human resources are limited. These people need more than we are able to provide. The scale of the crisis is overwhelming and it’s happening right in the heart of Brussels. After the shift we clear everything up, ready to start over the next day.

Lunch4All is just one of many projects happening on a Tuesday. On this same day, we also served 450 people breakfast outside the offices of the Immigration Department near Pacheco at our Solidarity Breakfast project. Le Phare is another example of one of our food projects that day that served over a further 100 people lunch and distributed hygiene bags.

Not only is the quantity of food and resources we are distributing skyrocketing, but the cost of these resources has increased majorly due to inflation. With the increased quantity and the cost of inflation taken into account, the cost of a single distribution at Lunch4All has increased by 136% in 6 months alone. Financially it is a struggle for us to continue providing support. As you can imagine, it has also been taking an emotional toll on our volunteers who are faced with this situation. Please consider supporting us financially so that we can continue to support vulnerable people and show them that they matter.

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© Claudio Caputo

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