The cold winter weather has brought to the forefront of discussions the issue of reception of asylum seekers in several European countries.
In Belgium, where the thermometer reached -10°C this month, there are nearly 7,000 homeless asylum seekers, emergency housing still lacks (PDF) and the new places promised by the government are still to be opened. NGOs are mobilised, but the situation is such that UNHCR accused the country of “dragging its feet in a humanitarian crisis”.
In France, places in shelters are so limited that some Prefectures decided to refuse access to homeless asylum seekers, including people awaiting for a decision on their asylum claim and those who have already received a negative decision. This is despite Prime Minister François Fillon's commitment few weeks ago to provide shelter to everyone in need during the winter.
Dutch immigration minister Gerd Leers also said recently that asylum seekers would not be put on the streets if it was very cold. “That goes without saying”, the minister assured to MPs. However, in the Netherlands too, asylum seekers whose applications haven't been successful have been evicted from reception centres.
Many people seeking protection in our countries have recently escaped from traumatic experiences, sometimes involving the disappearance or death of relatives and friends, torture or armed conflicts. How will they find the rest, safety and respect they need if they have to sleep rough?