Belgium’s Homelessness Crisis and Undocumented Migrants

Sarhan Basem
credit: The Brussels North train station, repurposed as an informal refugee camp in 2019. Photo credit: Belga / Dirk Waem.

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Poverty organizations in Brussels advocate for politicians to aid homeless asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. An exhibition highlights their plight, urging lawmakers to find lasting solutions for the vulnerable population.

As dozens of asylum pleaders are sleeping rough and the homelessness situation in Brussels continues, several poverty organisations are urging politicians to rescue vulnerable undocumented migrants in Belgium.

According to The Brussels Times, Homelessness organisation Samusocial, refugee organisation CIRÉ, Médecins du Monde, housing organisation l’Ilot and the Brussels Platform Poverty undertook an awareness-raising drive ‘Without papers, without rights, without a home’ for federal MPs and senators.

What Initiatives Are Advocates Taking in Belgium?

Through a display at the Palais de la Nation, the purpose is to immerse federal politicians in the existence and survival of undocumented migrants, Samusocial stated in a press release.

Why Are Poverty Organizations Urging Political Action?

The exhibition, from 18 April to 3 May, expects to get the 150 current Members of Parliament to face the realities by immersing them in the lives and survival of undocumented migrants and the most helpless among them. Through four portraits, grasped by photographer Cédric Gerbehaye and writer Caroline Lamarche, they seek to persuade MPs and senators to pay more attention to this group of people.

In the exhibition, the organisations point out issues specific to certain groups of undocumented migrants. “Some of them, who have been in Belgium for several years, become homeless as soon as they fail their housing and legal address. They are withdrawn from the registers and are only allowed to urgent, limited and not very accessible medical assistance.”

What Are the Challenges Faced by Undocumented Women?

In particular women, the elderly and the suffering pay a high price and find it challenging to survive in Belgium. “Women who are victims of domestic violence, often mothers, risk losing their residence permits as soon as they leave their violent partner,” the organisations asserted.

Who Is Most Vulnerable Among Undocumented Migrants?

Older people, sick people and those failing their self-sufficiency are also in a precarious situation. “Sometimes they break on the streets or in our emergency centres because, without a residence permit, they cannot be brought into a rest and care home in time.” The organisations call for concrete measures. “No action will end homelessness until we find lasting solutions,” they stressed.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.