Asylum seeker reception centers: community outreach


Belgian Red Cross-Flanders provides high-quality, professional reception for asylum seekers. Our aim as an organization is to raise social awareness of issues in this area.

At the same time, we want to engage in outreach initiatives that promote an accurate and balanced view of reception centers and their residents. Reception centers are very aware of the many prejudices that exist in our society towards their residents. Asylum seekers, refugees and illegal immigrants are often lumped together and there is generally little awareness and understanding of their plight.

For that reason, our reception centers work year after year to foster social acceptance of asylum seekers. Through events, workshops, information stands, newsletters, collaborative ties with associations and the dedication of volunteers, we create opportunities for reception centers to engage with the wider community.

Here are some of the highlights of 2012:

1. Traveling exhibition to mark Eeklo’s 10th birthday

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Eeklo reception center put on an exhibition of 10 information panels showcasing its achievements.

2. TotalAsil arts festival at Antwerp-Linkeroever

TotalAsil was a unique collaboration between asylum seekers at the Linkeroever reception center, local associations, artists and street artists.

3. Bake-off at Alsemberg reception center: eight local associations and 100 visitors got baking during Taste Week.

4. Theater in Bruges

As part of the Brugge Plus festival, the ‘Uitwijken caravan’ set up camp in the reception center garden, bringing food, drink and entertainment in its wake.

5. Lecture series at Deinze

A number of speakers gave interesting talks on world affairs to around 200 local residents on three Tuesday evenings in the local library.

6. Creativity without borders at Heusden-Zolder

Reception center residents put on creative workshops in collaboration with non-profit organization Loca Loca. Each chose the theme of their own workshop, based on their experiences in their country of origin.

7. May Festival in Lint

Almost 500 people visited the reception center during the May Festival. Entertainment included kids’ activities, live performances, a barbecue and tours.

8. Movies at Lanaken

Ter Dennen reception center hosted two free film screenings in partnership with the Lanaken Cultural Center. This was an opportunity for the public to get acquainted with the reception center in an inclusive way.

9. Neighborhood garden in Menen

Menen reception center was given a plot of ground by the Christian health insurance fund (CM), on which our residents and a number of local people created a vegetable garden.

10. The Overpelt Cosmogolem

Since October 2012, the Valkenhof reception center has been home to a Cosmogolem – a wooden giant designed by artist Koen Vanmechelen. The Cosmogolem was built by pupils from a local school and was officially unveiled on October 5.

11. Asylum seekers given a face in Sint-Niklaas

The Koninklijke Kunstkring Lucasgezellen held its annual exhibition at the Red Cross reception center. A mural and dozens of portraits of the residents were included in the exhibition.

12. Pushing wheelchairs in Wingene

Wingene has found the perfect match between asylum seekers, keen to make themselves useful, and care home residents in need of some extra company and a helping hand. Together they go out for walks, trips and visits…

13. Asylum seekers’ poems

Poems written by residents at the Houthalen-Helchteren emergency reception center were translated and published under the title aZIELzoekers. The poems deal with their authors’ fears and their dreams for the future. The collection was presented to the public at the reception center on January 24, 2012.

14. Community initiatives at Houthalen-Helchteren and Weelde emergency reception centers

The emergency reception centers also organized regular contacts with local residents and handled complaints in a systematic and effective way. Both centers organized regular neighborhood clean-ups with the help of residents.

15. Daily integration work: overarching activities

In addition to specific community outreach initiatives, our reception centers engage in integration activities on a daily basis.  Volunteers are involved in shaping the day-to-day life of reception centers. Their actions are coordinated by an integration officer.  Organizations, schools, students and other interested parties visit our reception centers on a regular basis. They are given a warm welcome by our staff and taken on a guided tour with explanations about the service provided by the centers. Every two months, each reception center sent out an e-newsletter to local residents informing them of the latest goings-on in the center.

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