'No priority' for hunger strikers who end protest
23 May 2006, BRUSSELS — Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has denied claims that the residency status of asylum seekers who opt to end their hunger strike protest will be processed quicker than others.
23 May 2006
BRUSSELS — Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has denied claims that the residency status of asylum seekers who opt to end their hunger strike protest will be processed quicker than others.
The denial comes after Flemish public broadcaster VRT reported on Tuesday morning that six asylum seekers in the refugee shelter of Broechem ended their hunger strike after being visited by an official from the immigration service DVZ-OE.
The official reportedly promised the six asylum seekers that their status in Belgium will be processed with priority.
But the spokesman for Liberal VLD Minister Dewael downplayed the report. He did not deny the meeting took place, but stressed that the meeting will not change the fact that each dossier must undergo the correct investigations.
According to the Interior Ministry, the hunger strikers were only given the assurance that their dossier will still be subjected to normal and equal treatment.
Urgent humanitarian issues also will be taken into account, news agency Belga reported.
"It is thus definitely not so that a visit from the immigration service will lead to certain dossiers gaining priority status," spokesman Jo De Ro said.
Protest group the Association for People with Papers has also said accelerated processing of the status of former hunger strikers would be a false signal.
Meanwhile, about 100 protestors gathered on the Surlet de Chokierplein in Brussels on Tuesday afternoon to show their support for illegal immigrants living in Belgium without official documentation.
The protest was staged on initiative of the group Asylum and Migration Forum and union federations ABVV and ACV.
The organisers are critical of the lack of regularisation criteria and demanded the establishment of a commission that would assess asylum requests and give asylum seekers a chance to speak on record.
In other news, 20 residents of the refugee shelter Klein Kasteeltje in Brussels were taken to hospital on Monday. They have been on a hunger strike for the past month.
But some of the residents refused to stay in the hospital and opted to continue their hunger strike.
The Association against Deportation and for the Regularisation of Asylum Seekers has issued a reminder that a hunger strike can cause serious physical and psychological problems if the person is not medically and psychologically guided.
The organisation criticised the actions of the Klein Kasteeltje management, which has opted to isolate the hunger strikers from other shelter residents.
The League of Human Rights has also said the condition of the hunger strikers is "critical". Although opposed to the manner in which they are carrying out their protest, the league said it supports their demands.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news