24 July 2006
BRUSSELS — The Catholic education system will accept school sit-in protests from September by illegal immigrants demanding residency in Belgium, but the public school system is fiercely opposed to the actions.
The director of the Catholic school system, Mieke Van Hecke, is prepared to fully support schools that opt to give asylum to illegal immigrants.
The decision comes after a primary school in Eeklo (near Brugge) started giving shelter to a family of rejected asylum seekers from Yemen and Azerbaijan.
Van Hecke has backed the initiative, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported on Monday.
“Actually, it is not the first time that a school has launched an action to gain a residence permit for a family of which the children are at school and are well integrated,” she said.
“It shows that there is broad social support for a humane asylum policy.”
Van Hecke will not encourage other schools to carry out a similar campaign, stressing that every school must make a decision itself.
But the chief of the public school system, Urbain Lavigne, is opposed to schools granting asylum to illegal immigrants.
Public schools are part of the nation’s official education system, which is part of the government. School sit-in protests would then be a protest against the same government.
Lavigne also said there is more to the issue, however, stressing that it is not the role of schools to give shelter to refugees or to bring government procedures into doubt.
The organisation that supports protesting refugees, UDEP, is currently contacting school boards and parents committees to ask whether they will provide asylum from the start of the new school year in September.
Illegal immigrants are already staging sit-in protests and hunger strikes at various churches across the country, but the government has rejected calls for a general amnesty granting them residency.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news