Asylum seekers in Belgium receive hotel management training

The Belgian government has presented a plan to integrate asylum seekers into the labor market by training them in catering and hotel management. This helps migrants learn a trade while their asylum application is being processed and also fills a labor shortage.

On January 13, 28 asylum seekers housed in Walloon reception centers in southern Belgium began their training in a four-star hotel in the region. For several weeks, the migrants will learn the different professions of Horeca, the Belgian acronym for hotels and restaurants.

This initiative is part of the action plan presented by the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi. Led by Fedasil, the federal agency for asylum seekers in Belgium, it aims to promote the integration of asylum seekers into the labor market.

Fedasil hired eight people to help structure the subsequent employment of these foreigners. Collaborations have been established with migrant support organizations and public employment services (VDAB, Forem and Actiris) in different Belgian regions.

‘85% of our residents want to work’

In Belgium, protection seekers can work four months after submitting their file. On average, processing an asylum application in the country can take between 15 and 18 months.

“But in reality, this possibility is used very little,” Mahdi told the Belgian press. This is due to the social and geographical isolation of the migrants housed in the Fedasil network, but also to the language barrier and the lack of integration into the local community.

Read more: Belgium: what do you need to do to legally reside in the country?

According to the authorities, many of these exiles wish to find a job. “I would say that 85% of our residents want to work,” Geneviève Istasse, employment and training referent at the Red Cross accommodation center in Barvaux, Wallonia, told L’Echo newspaper.

“Stay in the center, always waiting, it’s not easy. Your mind is racing all the time, you don’t know what the future holds, it’s exhausting,” said Koffi, a Togolese intern from 42 years old, quoted by L’Écho.

Sammy Mahdi pictured during presentation of asylum seeker training on January 13, 2022 | Photo: Imago

Labor shortage

At the end of the training, which also includes French lessons, asylum seekers will receive a recognized diploma and may be offered a fixed-term contract, which may be transformed into a permanent contract once their situation is regularized. .

Read more: Belgium: Hundreds of asylum seekers on the streets

Authorities say the system is a good way to make the most of migrants’ waiting time by integrating them into society through work. And it also has benefits for Belgian society at large. “Many companies, especially in the construction and catering sectors, desperately need more workers,” said Benoît Mansy, spokesman for Fedasil. InfoMigrants. “We receive calls every day” from employers looking for staff, told L’Echo Hélène Poos, director of the Horeca training center in Wallonia.

Last year, Fedasil had already partnered with these organizations to support asylum seekers in their job search process. With this new plan, it pushes its involvement in the professional integration of foreigners a little further.

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