Schooling is mandatory for all children between 6 and 18 in Belgium, irrespective of their residence status. Classes with adapted course packages and teaching methods, the so-called “bridging classes” (in the French speaking Community schools) and “reception classes” (in the Flemish Community schools), are organised for children of newly arrived migrants and asylum seekers. Those children are later integrated in regular classes once they are considered ready for it. Some of the bigger collective reception centres organise education within the centre itself, but most asylum-seeking children are integrated in local schools.
In practice, the capacity of some local schools is not always sufficient to absorb all asylum-seeking children entitled to education. Also, transfers of families to another reception centre or to a so-called “open return place” after having received a negative decision might entail a move to another (sometimes even linguistically different) part of the country, which can have a negative impact on the continuity in education for the children. In that respect, it is noteworthy to recall that courts have endeavoured to guarantee asylum seeking children the right to education. In a ruling of 6 May 2014, for example, the Charleroi Labour Court found that the transfer of a family to the family centre of the Holsbeek open return place (in Dutch speaking Flanders) would result in a violation of the right to education since it would force the children to change from a French speaking school to a Dutch speaking one.1
In reception centres for asylum seekers, all residents can take part in activities that encourage integration and knowledge of the host country. Also, they have the right to attend professional training and education courses.2 The regional Offices for Employment organise professional training for asylum seekers who are allowed to work with the purpose of assisting them in finding a job. Also, they can enrol in adults’ education courses for which a certain level of knowledge of one of the national languages is required, but not all regions equally take charge of the subscription fees and transport costs.
The costs of transportation to school and trainings should be paid by the reception centres (this is part of the funding Fedasil gives) but due to the fact that the quality norms are not a public document (See section Conditions in Reception Facilities) this varies in practice among the different reception facilities.