Last Saturday, the Fedasil centre in Neder-Over-Heembeek opened its doors to its neighbors in and around Brussels. This open day invited those living in the area to gain an insight into the daily life of the center. The asylum center in question is an observation and orientation centre for unaccompanied minors.
The SB Espoir team was invited to gain a deeper understanding of how the centre works on a day-to-day basis. I went, along with one of my friends, Síobhan, who is living and working in the EU bubble and was curious about the day. Read about her experiences below.
Tell us about yourself and why you decided to come to along to the open day?
My name is Síobhan and I moved to Brussels from Ireland last year to work for an Irish MEP. I would have an open mind about migration, but given that most of my work is focused on Irish issues, this topic was something with which I was not overly-familiar. I was curious to see the reality in the centers and also to learn about what was happening outside the European bubble and in the city I actually live in.
What impression did you have of the center?
I was impressed by the tour we did around the center and the willingness of the staff to answer a number of my questions. As its an observation and orientation centre, that is to say, the first centre the minors arrive in when they are found on the territory of Belgium, I was happy to see that the youth were provided with a structured routine including lessons and occasional outings to museums – dependent on funding. I also was impressed at the dedication of the staff, who wore a number of different hats – councilor, teacher, chef and many others.
And the youth?
The resilience of the youth left a mark on me. They were full of life which is remarkable considering the ordeals they have been through. Young teenager boys jostling for the mic at the afternoon activity so they can rap and show off their dancing skills, but also realising on the same hand, it is these youth whose trauma follows them to Belgium as evident by the stories from the staff of repetitive nightmares.
How did your perception change due to this event?
The experienced reinforced my beliefs and has also encouraged me to take action on a personal level by volunteering on the weekends in the centres. Everyone can do a little bit if they so wish and it is through these open days and volunteering opportunities that one can help out, even for just an afternoon a week.
Read about what our SB Espoir volunteers have to say about volunteering in Brussels with refugee youth. If you are interested in volunteering, SB OverSeas is having a training day this Saturday in Brussels. Join us at SB Espoir where you could find yourself one weekend exploring Brussels by bike, or doing a photography workshop or following week pretending to be Beckham playing soccer in the park.