‘Sans-papiers’ movement, Brussels

John Vink

Since February 1st 2021, more than 200 undocumented migrants have been occupying the Saint-Jean-Baptiste-au-Béguinage church in the center of Brussels, as well as another 180 occupying the two main universities of the Belgian capital. This occupation is an attempt to obtain a massive regularization of their status. Almost all of them have a job, pay a rent and have spent several years if not decades in Belgium without obtaining a legal status, thus preventing them to open a bank account or have access to unemployment or a pension. Their financial situation was heavily impacted by Covid-19, when more precarious job situations were lost, leaving them without an income.

Similar demonstrations in 1999 and 2009 have led to mass regularizations. But the change in the political balance, with the current government risking to loose voices to the ever more present extreme right in the Flemish part of the country by taking a soft stance, compromises the success of their political movement. After more than 100 days of occupying the sites, the demonstrators have started a hunger strike on May 23rd.

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