Belgium shamed again over asylum-seekers
10 May 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgian has again been criticised for detaining asylum seekers in the transit zone of Brussels National Airport.
A new annual report on Belgium’s human rights record published by a group of 25 experts, commissioned by the European Commission, has lambasted the country for continuing to hold rejected asylum-seekers at the airport, the French-language daily Le Soir reported on Tuesday.
But Belgian authorities insist the asylum seekers are not ‘imprisoned’ in the zone, stating they are free to leave the country on a plane whenever they choose.
The report, though, says the practice is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and points out that it is not in decline. At least 11 individuals were kept in the transit zone in the first four months of 2004, compared to 21 in 2003.
The experts also criticised the country for allowing minors to be detained. “Contrary to the assurances made by the Belgian government … the imprisonment of minors has become a reality” and “constitutes a flagrant violation of international norms … which Belgium is obliged to conform to,” it said.
But it welcomed the creation of new administrative procedures to help young asylum seekers link up with families or others who can help them.
The UN and Amnesty International have also previously criticized Belgium for its airport transit zones.
The UN in an August 2004 report slammed Belgium for its overall human rights record and expressed concern over the numbers of asylum seekers held in the transit zone of Brussels National Airport.
Being kept for several months in the airport in poor sanitary and social conditions was “inhuman and degrading treatment”, said the UN, and “should end immediately”.
Both the UN and Amnesty say it’s unacceptable that asylum-seekers are regularly released from detention centres by Belgian courts, only to end up in the transit zone.
The group of 25 human rights experts, responsible for this latest report, was created by the Commission on the orders of the European Parliament in 2002. Since then, they have written an annual report on each EU member state with recommendations made to the competent EU authorities.
All 25 reports on each EU member states are due to be synthesised into one text due to be published on 31 May.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian News