Afghan refugees in Belgium resist expulsion

Five Afghan refugees who have been on a hunger strike to resist expulsion by Belgian authorities were taken to hospital on Saturday.

    Scores of Afghans remain refugees despite the fall of the Taliban regime (library)

    The refugees were among some 270 others who occupied the Holy Cross church in Brussels on Thursday in protest at the authorities' refusal to grant them political asylum.

    The Belga agency said the Belgian Red Cross treated 20 people at the church who were not feeling well and took five to hospital for treatment.

    One hundred and twenty of the refugees are children.

    The government insists it is safe for the refugees to return to Afghanistan since the situation has stabilised.

    That assessment runs contrary to the views of the London-based human rights organisation Amnesty International.

    The group said in June the security situation across Afghansitan had steadily deteriorated in 2003 and that it was "unlikely that repatriation can be promoted in the forseeable future".

    More than 1,000 Afghan refugees were estimated to have received notices from the Belgian government this month ordering them to leave the country within three to nine months.

    Illegal immigrants

    Turkish authorities meanwhile have foiled an attempt by over 250 would-be immigrants to enter Europe illegally.

    Turkish authorities said on Saturday the 257 mostly unemployed Kurds were on a small fishing boat off the holiday resort of Fethiye in southern Turkey when they were stopped by coastguards.

    One anonymous immigrant told reporters they had paid $2900 dollars per person for their planned trip.

    Turkey is a major route for illegal immigration from Asia to Europe.

    The immigrants mostly try to cross to Greece by land or brave sea journeys to Greece or Italy, often aboard old and unsafe boats.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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