The empty building on Rue de la Loi street in Brussels is crowded and run-down, but the roughly 100 asylum seekers who are squatting there say they have nowhere else to go if police carry out an eviction order. “We don’t know what to do if we leave, we won’t have a place to stay,” Amil, a 30-year-old man from Afghanistan, who asked not to use his full name, told Context last week as the eviction date drew near. Refugee rights advocates in Belgium say many more like Amil now face homelessness after the government announced a temporary freeze on the provision of housing for single male asylum seekers looking for shelter. Even before the step, a shortage of accommodation meant many men ended up living in squats or sleeping rough. Outlining the freeze last week, Asylum Minister Nicole de Moor said limited housing capacity meant the government had to prioritise the housing of families and unaccompanied children. “I absolutely want to prevent children from ending up on the street. Our country has been doing more than its share for a long time. That is no longer possible,” she said in a statement. Refugee arrivals rose eight per cent in July from the previous month, according to official data, and the government says the influx of asylum seekers from Ukraine, Africa and Asia is overwhelming housing resources in the country of 11.6 million people. Its reception capacity of 34,000 is almost full according to the asylum agency FEDASIL, which also has a waiting list of more than 2,000 asylum seekers. In Brussels, the sight of refugees and migrants sleeping rough on the streets has become increasingly common over the past year, reflecting a wider crisis in Europe over how to accommodate people fleeing war, violence and persecution. Britain put up thousands of Afghan refugees in hotels, with large families sometimes sharing small rooms for months, while the Netherlands housed hundreds on a giant passenger ferry. But critics say Belgium’s decision to stop providing accommodation for single men risks causing a housing crisis over the winter and violates the country’s obligations to refugees under international law. “Not only is it inhumane, it is also perfectly illegal,” said lawyer and refugee rights advocate Marie Doutrepont, who is considering launching a legal challenge against the government over the housing freeze. “There is no hierarchy, we have to house everyone,” she added. Asked to comment about such criticism, the asylum minister’s office referred to previous statements by senior officials about the policy. Belgium’s Refugee Council Flanders said the government measure was politically motivated – aimed at tapping into voters’ fears about rising immigration – and would do little to ensure families can be housed. “I believe it is only a matter of weeks before FEDASIL can no longer shelter families and then the bubble will burst,” said Thomas Willekens, policy officer at the non-profit.