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There is a reception crisis in Europe - which will get worse in 2023

The last few years have been extremely challenging for everyone, but especially for the refugee population. The economic and social consequences of the pandemic, together with the effects of the war in Ukraine, exacerbated the precariousness and vulnerability of people at risk, in particular refugees. To make matters worse, the influx of many people looking for protection after the invasion of Ukraine led to overcrowding of centers and spaces to receive refugees. This is a situation that has deteriorated since 2015 and is now reaching inhuman levels. Many countries are struggling to ensure the protection and well-being of thousands of people who have been forced to flee their countries and who are heading to Europe to try to survive. However, the scenario they encounter and the conditions they are subjected to are tragic and regrettable, with profound consequences for their physical and mental health, obstructing the reconstruction of their lives.

In Belgium, unacceptable asylum conditions force hundreds of people to stay on the streets of Europe's capital. Whole families, children, pregnant women and vulnerable people are living on the streets as reception centers are full and accommodation is not available. An estimated two-thirds of people in homeless shelters are asylum seekers or migrants. The European Court of Human Rights has twice asked the Belgian government for measures to provide housing for all people in need. This situation becomes increasingly worrying with the worsening of weather conditions in winter. In addition to homelessness for hundreds of people, many are seeing their right to seek asylum difficult or denied. The Belgian Red Cross describes the situation as "unacceptable, inhumane and degrading" and many organizations accuse the authorities of taking illegal measures and creating an increasingly unsafe and frightening situation. For many NGOs, the justification of saturation is not plausible, especially after the efforts made by all European countries to manage to accommodate thousands of Ukrainians who fled the war.

In September, in Ireland, around 200 people were also left on the streets. Most were, however, placed in tents, but this situation remains an alert to the reality of reception, in a country that managed to accommodate around 48,000 Ukrainians. In the Netherlands, too, the situation is deteriorating alarmingly, with around 300 asylum seekers forced to live on the streets. The crisis in the real estate market also left between 15,000 and 17,000 people unable to leave reception centers, as they were unable to find a home. The current difficulties have led the government to plan to amend the family reunification law, to include mandatory accommodation and reduce its quota, in order to reduce the number of asylum seekers. This news was met with much criticism, challenging its legality and practicality.

Also in Portugal, refugees experience difficulties when it comes to being able to keep their homes. The growing increase in rent, the requirement for a lot of documentation - which refugees do not have - the difficult bureaucracy, as well as evictions and rejections based on racist and xenophobic ideas, lead many families to fear a dreadful future. The lack of autonomy, combined with the harmful behavior of some landlords, puts many families at risk and makes them want to leave the country. Organizations, such as the CPR, have been warning about these increasingly recurring situations, especially after the pandemic.

Europe is experiencing a reception crisis, which is expected to intensify with the deterioration of conditions for receiving people seeking international protection. This is a situation that occurs globally, affecting millions of people. We reached yet another historical record of 103 million people who were forced to flee their homes. The intensification of conflicts, violence and crises, allied to the rise of totalitarian regimes and the scarcity and ineffectiveness of responses, foreshadow the exponential increase of people in need of protection. These people are not the crisis, but the responses that have been insufficient and mismanaged.

Analysts understand that the main cause of the European crisis will be the war in Ukraine and not the asylum seekers, from countries devastated by continuous conflicts and crises, who go by land and sea to European countries to ask for protection. However, it is the latter who suffer the consequences, personified (once again) as the scapegoats for yet another crisis. This trend is expected to escalate and the situation will become more dramatic as the number of desperate people trying to reach Europe increases.

At the root of the reception crisis are many other interconnected issues, namely the crisis in the real estate market, but especially the lack of resources which, in turn, is behind a generalized lack of interest in improving conditions for people who ask for international protection. .

It is imperative to take holistic and coordinated measures, with all the entities involved and to adjust the welcoming and reception systems to achieve basic conditions for all people.

Asylum seekers are forced to sleep on the streets of Brussels. REUTERS/Yves Herman.

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