August 3, 2021

hunger strikers suspend their action

Their life was hanging by a thread. After sixty-one days of hunger strike, some of the 475 undocumented migrants who occupy several places in Brussels, including the Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au-Béguinage church in the city center, have started to eat again, Wednesday July 21. “The hunger strike is suspended, but not over”, declares Tarik, one of the spokespersons for the union of undocumented migrants for regularization. Because the content of the agreement, negotiated between a delegation of personalities – lawyers, activists – chosen by undocumented migrants, and Sammy Mahdi, the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration (CD&V, Flemish Christian Democrat) , is rather vague.

Moreover, the Secretary of State considers that there was no real agreement. “He remained on his line, no collective regularization, but an individual examination of the files”, explains Sieghild Lacoere, his spokesperson. According to Sammy Mahdi, undocumented migrants can simply submit an individual request and follow the usual route for regularization. The review would be expedited, but nothing more. “I am grateful that people have stopped their hunger strike”, did he declare. The Secretary of State considers that he has convinced the undocumented migrants that only “The existing procedures are human”.

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So much for appearances. But behind the scenes, it seems that Sammy Mahdi has let loose a little more ballast. The satisfaction of some of the supporters of undocumented migrants is an indicator. Alexis Deswaef is a lawyer, he was a member of the delegation that met the Secretary of State on Wednesday morning. “The discussion was very open with Sammy Mahdi, he said. This climate of confidence and the information received make it possible to put an end to this humanitarian crisis. “

Case-by-case assessment

What are these elements? At the moment, they are not public. Several sources evoke a treatment of the files of the hunger strikers by the administration without the preliminary examination of the admissibility of the request on which many undocumented migrants are breaking their teeth. Then the officials would assess the applicants’ situations on a case-by-case basis, with a certain leniency for those who have worked and lived in Belgium for a long time.

This “agreement” which does not speak its name does not win the unanimity of the strikers. If the occupants of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au-Béguinage church suspended their hunger strike, those of the two free universities of Brussels, the French-speaking (ULB) and the Dutch-speaking (VUB), were more reluctant and no ‘had, Wednesday evening, not yet decided to stop their action. The undocumented migrants, since the beginning of their movement, demand that a real policy of regularization – with clear criteria – be put in place.

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