What are the plans of the Belgian government?

The Belgian government wants to build a new closed centre, specifically to detain families with children. The following information is mainly retrieved from answers Theo Francken, State secretary for Asylum and Migration, gave to a parliamentary inquiry by Monica de Coninck on 15 February 2017.

The closed centre would consist of 5 separate units, called "closed family units". Three of them could house up to 6 people, while 2 of them could house up to 8. At the time of the opening, there will be no playing facilities; they will be added later on.

The closed centre will be built next to centre 127bis, near Brussels Airport. This is surprising, as proximity to an airport played a role in the conviction of France by the European Court of Human Rights for detaining children in inappropriate conditions.

The initial aim of the new closed centre was, according to the State secretary, to discourage families from absconding from the return houses. Families would be informed, upon arrival in a return house, that they could be transferred to a closed centre if they disappear from the return house. Afterwards, however, a representative from the Immigration office indicated that also families who are stopped at the border and do not ask for asylum would be detained in the new closed centre.[1]

Mr Francken explains that the length of detention will be "as short as possible", while adding that this "depends on each case" and that "the collaboration of the person involved [also] plays a role". We do not have precise information at the moment about the possible maximum length of detention.

Be that as it may, even one day is one day too many, because : "You don't lock up a child. Period."


[1] During a study session in the Flemish parliament on 18 May 2017.

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