Asylum seekers who want to apply for international protection in Brussels, the capital of both Belgium and the European Union, are being forced to sleep on the streets due to reception centers having no room to spare.
Those who want to apply for asylum line up outside of the offices of the Belgian Federal Asylum Seeker Reception Agency, called "Petit Chateau" (Small Castle), starting in the early morning.
As the refugee reception centers are full, most of these people are forced to spend the night on the streets, as they are removed from outside the center at the end of the day.
On early Friday, a makeshift tent was set up along the canal in front of the Petit Chateau. Dozens of people were sleeping on whatever they had for comfort and warmth: quilts, blankets, beds, and mattresses.
Some 200 people, mostly nationals of Afghanistan and the small East African nation of Burundi, sleep in front of a building reserved for Ukrainian refugees in the Schaerbeek district.
While refugees from Asia and Africa get a cold response, Belgium fast-tracked the applications of Ukrainians fleeing the war, giving them the right to residency and work permits, as well as access to social welfare, housing, and livelihoods.
This crisis in Brussels, which has been going on for more than a year, flared up in recent weeks with at least 21 child refugees sleeping rough on the streets.
Although authorities said additional shelters would be built, nothing changed. NGOs provide these people with as much food, clothing and health support as they can.
"People spend the night on the street in the biting cold," said Sotieta Ngo, director of the non-profit organization Coordination Initiatives for Refugees and Foreigners (CIRE).
"Belgium doesn’t want to become attractive for refugees," she told Anadolu Agency earlier.
Noting that the introduction of local aid systems by municipalities would solve the problem, the NGOs say the state avoids taking this step in order not to draw more refugees to apply for asylum.