Volunteers have started dismantling Belgium’s biggest refugee camp, which asylum seekers have called home while awaiting processing, after local families stepped forward to host the refugees.
The decision by the local group behind the camp, Civil Platform, to dismantle the tent city in the small Maximilien Park in Brussels was taken in the wake of a wave of help by Belgians to take in 500 asylum seekers – as well as forcing the hand of the government to take over the task.
There were 5,600 asylum applications in Belgium in August, 47 per cent of them from Iraqis, but the weekly flow of asylum applicants into Brussels has now reached 1,900. The improvised camp, which hosted more than 1,000 people at one time, was near the Belgian immigration office, the first official point of contact for asylum-seekers.
The refugee crisis has had a powerful effect on the Belgian public, and has elicited so much help that Civil Platform has turned down offers of clothing and assistance from would-be volunteers.
However, the welcome contrasted with the government’s response. The Asylum Secretary, Theo Francken, from the Flemish nationalist party N-VA, said he would suspend asylum applications filed by Iraqis from Baghdad, pending a review of the “security situation” in Iraq.
Elsewhere, clashes between groups of refugees in Germany were reported to have erupted at asylum-seeker accommodation – the latest incident in a spate of recent violence.
The violence at a centre in Hamburg exploded late on Wednesday night after a dispute between 200 Syrian and Afghan asylum-seekers over the use of a shower. Police said four people were injured.
Germany took in more than 200,000 refugees in September alone. In the German parliament, where proposed measures such as swifter deportations for economic migrants were discussed, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière called for a “culture of recognition” from newcomers.
“This includes not fighting, this includes having patience and respecting other people, independent of religion and gender,” he said.
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