King Philippe of the Belgians has spent the afternoon at a refugee centre in his country hearing from agencies involved in providing help to those who are arriving in the country and volunteers. The surprise visit also saw the king meet some of those who staying at the centre as they look to claim asylum in Belgium.
King Philippe arrived at the centre for refugees with the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, and the country’s Secretary of State for Asylum, Theo Francken, just after 4pm local time. The centre, in Belgrade in the Namur region of Belgium, can currently accommodate between 150 and 200 refugees at any one time.
The king met volunteers helping at the centre as well as representatives from the Red Cross and from Fedasil, the federal agency which is responsible for receiving asylum seekers in Belgium. King Philippe then met the refugees currently at the Belgrade centre – most of them have arrived in Belgium from Syria and Iraq.
Fedasil reports a large increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Belgium over the past few months and in August it announced that it was opening more reception centres to deal with the influx which it puts at around 250 people per day. The Belgian government also approved the opening of more temporary centres and has recruited more staff to deal with asylum applications.
Philippe’s visit comes just over a week after King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden made the crisis one of the major themes of his speech as he officially opened his country’s parliament for the year. The Swedish monarch told politicians of his deep concern over the issue, saying “In recent weeks the number of people displaced has increased dramatically. It is a tragedy that has touched all of us emotionally.” And Carl XVI Gustaf’s wife, Queen Silvia, has also spoken out on the crisis saying that she is deeply concerned for the plight of refugee children in particular.