Hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan have taken shelter in a church in Belgium to avoid being sent back to their home country.
St. John the Baptist Church in Brussels has been filled with tents and makeshift beds, Reuters reports. The occupants claimed they would be killed or forced to join terrorist groups if they went back to Afghanistan.
“We are afraid to die, to go back to die or to join a group of Al-Qaeda that is against humanity,” said 29-year-old group member Samir Hamdard.
Before settling in the church, the asylum seekers had occupied several empty buildings before being evicted. Many had their repeated applications for asylum in Belgium rejected, as the government insists Afghanistan is not dangerous enough to require them to give asylum to everyone coming from there. The priest maintaining the church, Daniel Alliet, had opened its doors to them out of concern over Belgium’s asylum policy, Reuters reports.
“The main aim of the policy is no longer to focus on who needs help but how to minimize the number of people coming in,” he said.