Government pledges €30 million for overseas refugee camps


The federal government hopes its emergency aid will improve conditions in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as people pitch in with donations and hot food for asylum applicants camped out in Brussels

Call for European development summit

Belgium has put aside an extra €30 million for emergency aid for refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, according to Alexander De Croo, federal minister for development co-operation. The money is part of a joint fund with the Dutch government, which provides €48.5 million.

“Together we want to start action on a European level to encourage other countries to provide similar funding,” De Croo said. “And we want to call a summit of European development ministers as soon as possible.”

The three countries are burdened with millions of refugees from Syria, and the two governments hope that if the situation in the camps can be improved, refugees will be encouraged to go there rather than crossing the sea to the EU.

De Croo also called for EU rules on aid to Syria to be simplified. “That way, fast and efficient aid can be provided,” he said. “We’d like to raise €2 billion like this. That’s a serious amount of money.”

Meanwhile, members of the public have been rolling up their sleeves to help refugees who have made it a far as Brussels. The Office for Foreigners worked over the weekend to try to clear the backlog of asylum applicants. Because of the numbers showing up and the limited number who can be processed in a day, last week was already fully booked on Tuesday, with hundreds sent away with a note to come back another day.

The Red Cross has placed tents and temporary services in nearby Maximiliaan Park and has asked the public not to bring any more offerings of blankets, clothing and food, after hundreds showed up bearing gifts. They do still need cardboard boxes to organise donations, as well as volunteers, especially those able to drive material and people around. The Red Cross also installed 500 beds at the weekend in the WTC tower nearby.

About 400 families in Flanders have offered to accommodate refugees, Pleegzorg Vlaanderen reported. The NGO started the campaign Geef de wereld een thuis (Give the World a Home), inviting members of the public to make available a spare room or even a second residence. “We’re absolutely amazed at the number of people offering to help,” said Niels Heselmans. “We aim to turn that moment of spontaneity into something structural.”

One family in Genk spent all day Saturday preparing more than 400 meals for refugees in Brussels. Adem Barskanmay, who works as a baker in the capital, said he was affected by the situation of the refugees sleeping rough when he went to hand out bread. That gave him the idea of preparing a hot meal with the help of his family, he told VTM News. Neighbours helped pay for the shopping and also provided other supplies, including nappies and toilet paper.  

Photo by Sally Tipper