Belgium may no longer deny shelter to single men seeking asylum in the country.
As reported by De Standaard, on Wednesday, September 13th the Council of State (the supreme administrative court of Belgium) annulled a controversial ‘men’s ban’, implemented by State Secretary for Migration Nicole de Moor (CD&V) at the end of last month.
Faced with a dire shelter shortage—overseen by Fedasil, the agency responsible for the reception of asylum seekers in Belgium—De Moor had opted for a women, children, and families first policy, which saw single men lose out.
While their access to shelters has been restricted since October 2021, and that restriction was subsequently overruled by Brussels, Belgian, and even European courts numerous times, the formal ban nonetheless elicited much controversy, since under Belgian law, asylum seekers are entitled to medical, social and psychological guidance, food, clothing and shelter.
The question now is whether State Secretary De Moor will heed the decision.
On X, formerly Twitter, De Moor noted that “the State Council’s annulment does not make it so that we suddenly do have spots for everyone,” and that her policy “would not change,” since “absolute priority” would still be given to families and children.
In an interview with Nieuwsblad, published before the expected verdict was rendered , De Moor said she had “no illusions,” warning that the coming winter “would be difficult.”
Belgium is struggling with a shortage of places to shelter asylum seekers. With a total capacity of about 34,200, its occupancy rate hovers around 95%—in short, too close for comfort.
Last Monday alone, some 150 families applied for shelter, accounting for 260 needing a place to stay.
At present, an estimated 2,000 asylum seekers are seeking accommodation.
An outward sign of the ongoing crisis is Het Klein Kasteeltje—Belgium’s central Brussels-based application center—where male asylum seekers are forced to sleep outside in tents.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) told De Standaard: “If you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose, I do understand that we do not let the children sleep outside.”
Former State Secretary for Migration and current Flemish MP Theo Francken (N-VA) believes De Moor’s ban, overruled or not, does not go nearly far enough.
In a post on X, he said:
There should be no reception stop for male asylum seekers, there should be a temporary ASYLUM STOP for everyone. This war of attrition must stop. Give the people on the ground time to catch their breath. Belgium cannot absorb everything by itself.