Expatica news

UN criticism of asylum seeker policies

9 December 2005

BRUSSELS — The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has sharply criticised Belgium’s asylum policy, especially raising concerns over the detention of children.

The UNCHR also accused Belgian authorities of breaching international regulations laid out in the United Nation’s children’s rights treaty.

“Moreover, there is no improvement in sight due to the announced tightening of Belgian asylum legislation,” UNHCR said.

The UN’s refugee agency cast Belgium’s asylum policy in the spotlight on the eve of the International Day of Human Rights on Saturday.

It is primarily concerned by the growing number of children being held at the asylum seeker detention centres 127 (Melsbroek) and 127 bis (Steenokkerzeel).

Some 66 of the 121 asylum seekers being detained last week were children, newspaper ‘Metro’ reported on Friday. In January, the number of children being detained was only about 10.

On a more positive note though, the number of child asylum seekers who arrive at Zaventem Airport without ID or with a false passport is declining on a weekly basis.

Just three of the children being detained at the asylum seeker centre 127 have no parents or family members with them.

“The number of asylum requests has strongly declined in recent times,” said Liesbeth Van Hoorik, a spokeswoman with the Flemish NGO linked to UNCHR, Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen.

“Despite the decline, the Belgian asylum policy is only getting stricter. The immigration service is planning the opening of new wings at the [asylum seeker] centres of Vottem and Merksplas. It thus wants to lock more people up.”

UNCHR urged for the use of electronic supervision or procedures obligating asylum seeker children to regularly report back to authorities as alternatives for their continuing detention.

It said children should only be housed in detention centres for a few days, but currently, some children are being detained for months on end.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news