Belgium: Undocumented workers’ hunger strikes reach critical point

Published on WSWS, by Paul Bond, 3 September 2008.

Recent days have seen an escalation of protests in support of undocumented workers (sans papiers) in Belgium. The protests are being stepped up amid fears for the health of around 80 sans papiers who have now been on hunger strike for over 50 days.

Sans papiers have occupied several buildings in protest at the government’s failure to regularise their status. A hunger strike began at the Béguinage church in Brussels in May. After 56 days, the Ministry of Asylum and Migration offered the 147 Béguinage hunger strikers a compromise deal, granting them a nine-month renewable temporary residence permit and a limited work permit. The Type C work permit is offered to asylum-seekers whose applications have been approved for hearing, and is renewable after one year on evidence of the worker having found a job.

Although hailed as a limited victory by activists, this compromise seems to have heralded a renewed determination on the part of the government not to negotiate with other protesting sans papiers. A hunger strike in the occupied church of Saint-Curé d’Ars in Forest was called off at the end of July after 23 days. It was the second such hunger strike undertaken in recent months by the Forest protesters …

… Alliet has now called for an occupation of the church by Belgian nationals in protest at the handling of the sans papiers, saying that Prime Minister Leterme would no longer then be able to consider it “a form of blackmail.” The aim was to express indignation, he said, without showing aggression. (full text).

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