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Community and Crisis: Brussels Squat Closure Leaves Asylum Seekers Stranded

In the heart of Brussels, a community forged in adversity faces dissolution as one of the city’s squats, a refuge for struggling asylum seekers, shuts its doors.

Mustafa alYazouri, a 30-year-old Palestinian, found himself among its residents, navigating Belgium’s arduous asylum process and grappling with the harsh realities of homelessness.

The squat, which provided temporary shelter to around 40 single men, closed abruptly on 1 June following the expiration of an agreement with the property owner.

Residents like alYazouri were offered a brief reprieve in a hotel paid for by the landlord but soon found themselves back on the streets. Some sought refuge in other squats, while others turned to organizations like Samusocial for assistance or resorted to sleeping rough.

“We had a sense of community in the squat,” alYazouri recalled in an interview with The Brussels Times. “Losing that makes life even harder. Without regular meetings, it’s difficult to maintain any semblance of a social life.”

The closure highlights Belgium’s mounting reception crisis, exacerbated by a backlog of over 4,000 asylum seekers awaiting decisions. Government measures, such as suspending the reception of single men, have left many with limited options for shelter.

AlYazouri’s journey through Belgium’s asylum system has been fraught with challenges. After months of waiting, he secured a place in a reception center in Hotton, a remote location far from Brussels, where he now resides.

Despite the distance and lack of community, the center provides stability—a stark contrast to the uncertainty of life on the streets.

“My situation in Hotton is not ideal, but at least I have a roof over my head,” alYazouri explained. “It’s a clean place, which matters. But I’m far from Brussels, where I work to support my family back in Gaza.”

For alYazouri and others like him, the closure of the squat represents more than just the loss of shelter; it underscores a broader failure in the asylum system to provide adequate support and solutions.

The collective managing the squat lamented the lack of constructive government intervention, stating, “There is no shortage of space, but no constructive solution is being put forward.”

The psychological toll on asylum seekers, particularly Palestinians awaiting news from home and a decision on their asylum status, is profound. Many resort to self-harm as they grapple with prolonged uncertainty and bureaucratic delays.

“I remain hopeful,” alYazouri remarked. “Despite the challenges, I have to stay optimistic for my family and for myself. If given the chance to explain my situation, I believe a judge would understand and grant me residency.”

As Belgium grapples with the fallout from the closure of squats and the broader reception crisis, the plight of asylum seekers like alYazouri serves as a poignant reminder of the human cost of policy failures. With winter approaching, the urgency to find sustainable solutions for those without shelter grows more pressing.

In the absence of immediate government action, grassroots organizations continue to fill the void, providing essential support and advocating for the rights of asylum seekers.

Yet, without systemic change, the cycle of temporary solutions and makeshift shelters threatens to perpetuate the suffering of those already on society’s margins.

As Brussels faces a pivotal moment in its response to the refugee crisis, the closure of squats like the one Mustafa alYazouri once called home serves as a stark warning: without compassionate and effective policies, the community solidarity that sustains vulnerable individuals will remain elusive.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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