CADAL, the first queer refugee shelter in Brussels

Last week, the first queer refugee shelter has been inaugurated in Brussels. CADAL (centre d’accueil pour demandeurs d’asile LGBTQIA+) is the project of Le Refuge Bruxelles / Het Opvanghuis Brussel managed by Dimitri Verdonck and Mahamed Boubleh. For about 3 years, Le Refuge has been supporting asylum seekers, although this goes beyond its primary mission, which relates to being an emergency accommodation and support structure for young people aged 18 to 25 in the queer community. It was therefore decided to create a specific structure more able to respond to the specific needs of the refugees in the community.

“LGBTQI + people who flee their country because of persecution due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex are unfortunately not sure that this violence will not recur once they arrive in Belgium. It is essential that initiatives like this center allow them to calmly prepare their case and offer them the peace of mind they have come to seek, often at the risk of their lives.” says Sarah Schlitz, the Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities.

Among the first guests of this new center is Qais, a 25-year-old queer Jordanian who took advantage of his Erasmus trip to Belgium to seek asylum. Asked by RTBF, he remembers how in his former refugee center, the social worker advised him to hide his sexual orientation. “When I was in my country I had been in hiding all my life. And as soon as I came here, I thought I would be free, that I would be myself. But I felt that again, like in my country, I had to hide, ”he says. The center has a capacity of 14 places, spread over two secret places in the territory of the Brussels region.

The inauguration event at the LaVallée cultural space was supported by Le Refuge Bruxelles, by the non-profit organizations MIDNIMO and Pour La Solidarité (PLS), Sarah Schlitz and the RainbowHouse Brussels.

This inauguration is part of the Rainbow Welcome project, co-funded by the Equal Opportunities Unit of the FPS Justice and the REC program of the European Commission, to improve the care of LGBTQIA + refugees in Europe. Based on a study on the reception of LGBT + people in Belgium, it was for example highlighted during the conference that people seeking asylum due to discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity could be placed in arrival centers with nationals of their countries of origin, and thus again be confronted with discrimination.