28 April 2005
BRUSSELS – Around 40 Kurdish refugees who were on hunger strike in Belgium have agreed to end their protest.
On Thursday, the radio and television website RTL reported that Interior Minister Patrick Dewael, who has until now been inflexible about the demands of the asylum seekers, has offered a compromise.
Dewael has pledged to review their individual cases.
He is to hold off orders to expel the protesters from Belgium for two months, a delay which will allow those asylum seekers who have been issued with an expulsion order to introduce appeals to the authorities.
The deal marks the end to a protest which started on 29 March with 33 refugees starting a hunger strike at Minimes Church in Brussels’ Sablon area.
The church was probably chosen because it is one of the nearest to the city’s Palais de Justice.
Seven other Kurds, who were staying at the asylum centre Petit Chateau in Brussels, also started a hunger strike.
Four other Kurdish refugees also joined their compatriots in their stand.
The refugees, who come from eastern Turkey, claim they cannot return to their country because they would face persecution there.
Several MEPs visited the Kurds during their protest to pledge their support, putting pressure on Dewael to modify his stance.
The compromise seems to have been agreed during a meeting between the protesters and Dewael’s staff.
The Kurds voted unanimously to accept the two-month reprieve and immediately received medical treatment.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news