Poverty and social justice

International Migrants Day: Jessica's European Solidarity Corps experiences

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Long term volunteering

Written by Jessica from Ireland

December 2021

International Migrants Day: Jessica’s European Solidarity Corps experiences with Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen In Belgium

The 18th of December, marks International Migrants Day! Join VSI as we stand in solidarity with migrants from all walks of life.  

Our European Solidarity Corps volunteer, Jessica, is currently doing a project with Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, an asylum centre which provides legal advice and information to asylum seekers in Belgium. Currently, Belgium is experiencing an asylum reception crisis. Jessica was kind enough to provide us with an update on her ESC experience in the context of recent events. Here’s what she had to say:  

“I’m currently working on a project with Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, a Flemish NGO who provide legal aid to asylum seekers. Normally, my position would involve going to meet people outside the arrival centre and giving them legal advice, however, at the minute there is a reception crisis in Belgium meaning that every day there is a long line of men who cannot get entry into the arrival centre to ask for asylum. As a result, there are a lot of men who have been sleeping outside the arrival centre, some for as long as three weeks.  

Our organisation has stopped our activities at the arrival centre because we feel like we can no longer provide accurate information as the situation changes on a day-to-day basis. At first, they tried bringing legal action against the federal agency providing accommodation but unfortunately, despite the fact that the federal agency was condemned over 50 times, they still have not been able to find a solution to the problem and help asylum seekers get off the streets. It’s been an interesting start for me as I still haven’t experienced a ‘normal’ day of work because of the crisis and our decision to strike but I hope that the Secretary of State will take action soon and that a solution will be found to the reception crisis so that my team and I can start working again. Until then I hope that we will find new ways of reaching out to asylum seekers and providing them with advice that can improve their first few days in Belgium. 

On Thursday, we attended a protest organised by the federal agency for providing reception to asylum seekers, Fedasil, and it took place outside the secretary of state’s office. The aim was to make him introduce a policy to create more accommodation for asylum seekers either by opening new centres or housing people in hotels. Their mantra was ‘wake up Sammy, you are asleep while people are sleeping on the streets’” 


You can read more about the reception crisis in Belgium here.  

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