Children infected with coronavirus are being sent into the Belgian school system by the country’s asylum agency (Fedasil) despite protests from local politicians over fears it could lead to an outbreak.
The Belgian federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers refuses to have asylum seekers from the Koksijde asylum center tested for COVID-19, even though there is a coronavirus outbreak in the reception center.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak at the center, Koksijde’s mayor, Marc Vanden Bussche, decided that no one should leave the center before they have been tested. Now, it seems that despite the explicit ban, Fedasil still sends these migrant children from the asylum center to nearby schools. Now, two of those migrant children have already tested positive for COVID-19, KW reports.
A few months ago, it was decided that a disused air force base and a number of older houses in Koksijde would once again be turned into a reception center for asylum seekers despite protests from the town.
Due to the coronavirus crisis, the municipality asked Belgium’s asylum agency to postpone the opening of the center, but that was not an option for Fedasil. Not long after the reopening, it turned out that there was a coronavirus outbreak in the facility.
“Because I wanted to avoid further spread of the coronavirus, it has been decided that no resident should leave the reception center until they have been tested for COVID-19,” Koksijde’s mayor Marc Vanden Bussche to KW.
“Now, it has become clear that Fedasil has sent children to our schools behind my back. Four children went to schools in Oostende, one child to the municipal school in Koksijde, and one child to the municipal school in Oostduinkerke. Fortunately, the director notified me. Two of the children tested positive for the coronavirus! I can’t imagine the consequences if we had admitted those children to school.”
Currently, the center still registers coronavirus cases, but Fedasil still refuses to have asylum seekers tested.
“It is unbelievable that Fedasil does not understand why it is so important that all residents of the center get tested,” said Koksijde’s mayor.
“In the asylum center, people have already tested positive for COVID-19, and it makes sense that I ask that everyone gets tested, especially when they want to send children to our schools. But Fedasil perceives that as a form of discrimination,” he said.
Vanden Bussche says he is fed up with Fedasil’s stubborn and arrogant attitude.
“I am concerned that Fedasil continues to deny that there could be a problem and that they do not respect the mayor’s decision. My only goal is to keep the center coronavirus-free,” said the town’s mayor.
“The municipality even proposed to pay for all coronavirus tests. I am now waiting for a response from public health authorities, but if this is not resolved soon, I will go to court. In the meantime, there will be stricter police supervision at the reception center.”
Beligum was recently criticized for a decision it made in 2015 to destroy 63 million medical masks to make room for migrants in a storage facility during the height of the migrant crisis. Now, critics are saying the country could have highly benefited from those supply of masks during the outbreak of the coronavirus in Europe.
Title image: Wesam, left, and Ismail, second left, no surnames given, both from Gaza Strip, shelter with blankets against the cold as they queue with others outside an asylum seeker reception centre during the international migrants day, in Brussels, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Wesam and Ismail, who have been queueing for four days, claimed that it’s taken them six months journey from Gaza Strip to Belgium crossing several countries such a Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France and finally Belgium. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)