A large group of undocumented migrants have occupied a church in Belgium in a bid to alert the government's attention to the plight of migrants whose situation has become worse as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Several hundred migrants have taken up refuge inside the Saint John the Baptist at the Béguinage after a priest granted them access on the condition that coronavirus restrictions are respected.
"The situation of undocumented migrants has become harder. Even without Covid, we live in misery, but now it has become unbearable to live," immigrant Mohamed told AFP. "So I am asking for legalisation. Because if we really want to fight Covid, we must all have the same rights; the right to housing, the right to access to health, access to all these services."
Saint John the Baptist at the Béguinage been occupied by migrants in the past. In 2014, hundreds of Afghan asylum seekers are protesting in Belgium against being sent home.
Nael Daibes, a supporter of the collective of undocumented migrants in Brussels, said that the migrant community has been suffering even more severely since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"An undocumented immigrant cannot go to a testing centre and get tested," he said. "And so this causes health problems among undocumented migrants, but also in the general population."
The migrants are asking the government to grant them status and rights.
"We suffer a lot. We really want to have papers because we just have the medical card, that's all," said Hagira, another of the migrants.
"And for us, it's not much. We are also human beings, we want to have our papers, we want to live our lives and not be afraid of the police. We still have this fear, in fact, we are not comfortable."