Belgium mulling hosting refugees in boat homes

Belgium mulling hosting refugees in boat homes

Country often fails to provide shelter to asylum seekers in traditional reception centers

By Agnes Szucs

BRUSSELS (AA) – The Belgian government is mulling housing asylum seekers on canal boats as the country struggles to provide shelter to a large number of refugees, local media reported on Tuesday.

Nicole de Moor, state secretary in charge of asylum and migration, has contacted port authorities to ask if they can provide space for pontoon houses to host asylum seekers as an alternative to traditional reception centers, Belgian daily Het Laatse Nieuws reported.

The country “is facing an acute shortage of reception places,” she wrote to the ports of Antwerp, Bruges, Oostende and Ghent, proposing setting up floating asylum centers similar to the already existing facility in Ghent.

The so-called “Ponton Rheno” was set up in 2016 as a private accommodation facility that rented out its places to the country’s asylum agency, Fedasil.

In 2020, Fedasil officially took over the floating center.

Belgium has been struggling for years to accommodate asylum seekers in line with EU and international law.

Under the rules, refugees are entitled to get accommodation and food while their application is processed but many were turned away by Fedasil due to lack of space.

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