Belgium, the country which headquarters the European Union, is among most affected by the Coronavirus disease. In fact, the mortality rate in the tiny country with 1.1 crore population is among the world’s highest. So far, around 50,000 people have been infected from the virus and more than 7,000 have died. The tiny country between the Netherlands and France has more cases and deaths than India, with over 57 fatalities per 100,000 people.
Belgium was among countries that responded to Coronavirus very early and announced nationwide lockdown in the Mid-March. The Belgian national Security Council extended the lockdown till May 3, and the nation would reopen from Monday. Yet the country has one of the highest case fatality rates trailing behind countries like France where the CFR is currently 18.65%.
“We’re coming out of seven weeks of enormous sacrifices on a human, social and economic level. Now is the time to look to the future,” Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said at a press conference Friday. “We can do so because the figures show that we were able to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in Belgium. But the virus hasn’t disappeared yet. It’s is still present and dangerous for the population,” she added.
One of the regions that Belgium has such a high mortality rate is the high median age of 41.4 years- and spread of the virus in the old age care homes. The Coronavirus spread into old age care homes in the country and people are dying in hundreds, as most of the people are old aged, have pre-existing conditions, and weak immunity.
The right-wing leaders like Barbara Pas have blamed the migrants, who reside in Belgian cities in large numbers, for the spread of the pandemic. Belgian cities have a large number of Moroccan and Turkish Muslim immigrants, and the momentum of right-wing is building against illegal immigration. The Coronavirus pandemic would only fuel the movement against Muslim groups and illegal immigration.
Many right-wing groups are “hammering on that there is a link between the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic and immigration,” however the Belgian government has not yet published any study or which can confirm this.
As per a report by Brussels Times, the right-wing parties are happy with the reopening of the economy, but they want more transparency and clear communication. So far, the right-wing groups have not been able to establish any clear links between migrants and the spread of the virus, as the data released by the government is not sufficient, and therefore, they are asking for greater transparency.
The Flemish rightwing N-VA party is pleased with the relaunch of the economy, “but the communication drowned in a sea of ambiguity,” said group leader Peter De Roover. “People are willing to follow the rules, but they will only do so if they understand the logic behind them, and that is lacking today,” he added, as per a report by Brussels Times.
On the other hand, the asylum seekers are worried as they have to ask for food households and sleep in open. The Belgian authorities have emptied the migrant detention center to stop the spread of the Coronavirus and this left the migrants homeless. Now, the government has reopened the application process, but only in Dutch and French-official languages of Brussels while the majority of the illegal immigrants, who come from North Africa and the Middle East, are only conversant in English. “This excludes the majority of people,” said Mehdi Kassou, a founder of Citizens’ Platform for the Support of Refugees, which offers services and emergency housing. “It is just a fig leaf for the government’s inaction.”
Migrants find it hard to get meals two times a day. “We have a rotating system with other volunteers in order to ensure that we give out meals twice a day,” said Nabil Moujahid, a 33-year-old schoolteacher, who runs an organization that gives food to poor illegal immigrants. “These people really count on it.”
The heart of the European Union is facing a crisis on two fronts- the first being spread of Coronavirus and second dealing with illegal immigrants who are now roaming across the country after being released from the detention centers.
These illegal immigrants might be spreading Coronavirus or might spread it after the country reopens, and therefore dealing with the migrant crisis is crucial for the Belgian government.