RANA is a voluntary association which has been active since October 2015 in welcoming and helping to integrate refugees and asylum seekers in Belgium.
When the group was founded, many asylum seekers had to sleep on the streets before they could move into FEDASIL’s reception centres. Despite the best efforts of various volunteers to assist them, this was clearly an intolerable situation.
This photo shows asylum seekers sleeping in front of the Gare du Nord on 12 November 2015 (with night temperatures hovering around zero and damp conditions).
In view of this, a number of friends working at the European Parliament decided to act by collecting clothes, toys and money donated by the Parliament’s employees. This proved a success and meant that some asylum seekers could be helped before their cases were addressed by the Belgian authorities. This work was coordinated with the Belgian Red Cross at WTC III, the main shelter for refugees in Brussels.
At that time ‘helping’ meant:
- Finding temporary accommodation for them in hotels and private homes
- Helping financially when needed
- Giving them guidance with administrative procedures
- Putting them in touch with healthcare providers (Médecins du Monde, hospitals, Office de la Naissance et de l’Enfance).
Around one hundred people benefited from this support (up to September 2016) and the group even managed to find permanent accommodation for several families.
Alongside this assistance, RANA members were in weekly contact with the shelters for refugees and the Red Cross to find out their most urgent needs.
Understanding these needs helped to:
- Direct donated money towards purchasing essential items which were most in demand, for instance, undergarments and socks
- Target clothing collections towards the needs of the time (warm clothes, sleeping bags...). This material was at first stored in the corridors of the European Parliament while awaiting distribution to the Red Cross or the depot of the Platforme Citoyenne d’aide aux Réfugiés in Rue François Mus, as this photo shows:
RANA’s work gradually developed into the following current activities:
For families not yet granted asylum:
- Help with temporary accommodation
- Assistance with administrative procedures
- Help with contacting healthcare providers
- Moral support
- Financial support
- Donated items (clothing, bags, toys etc.).
For families taken in by reception centres:
- Listening to their needs
- Addressing specific problems for each family
- Help with social integration in line with the family members’ knowledge and skills (“buddying” for individuals and families).
Integration can be understood on three levels:
- Social and cultural