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Boulevard Pacheco refugee camp cleared out by Belfius

21:07 06/12/2023

A refugee camp near the immigration office on Boulevard Pacheco in Brussels has been cleared, in an operation conducted by an external company at the request of Belfius bank, which owns the building under whose roof the asylum seekers were squatting.

About 50 refugees had been sleeping in front of the building under its awning, and their mattresses, blankets, cardboard boxes and personal belongings were removed while they were away at the Humanitarian Hub.

“Is this the solution to the refugee problem? It's not fair,” one refugee from Syria told RTBF.

“We found this roof, we clean the area every day. It's -5°C at night. I've only got my blanket and they're taking it away from me. If they kick us out of here, let them give us somewhere to go. I know there are plenty of places.”

Among the personal belongings seized by authorities was one refugee’s important annex 26 documentation needed to qualify for international protection.

“He may be registered, but he'll have to go back to the queue and reapply for annex 26 and a date, so he has to start all over again,” said Riet Dhont of the Amitié Sans Frontières support group. “That could mean months more.”

The refugee in question, and others who may have lost an important asylum document as a result of the clearance operation, are being instructed by the immigration department to report it to police and make an appointment to request a duplicate of the original document.

"Those who come to apply for a duplicate do not have to queue – they can make an appointment immediately," said immigration office spokeswoman Paulien Blondeel.

Belfius said the turn of events was unfortunate, but that according to bank spokesperson Ulrike Pommée, clearing the way had become necessary to ensure the safety of passers-by and customers.

“The rubbish accumulates on a daily basis, leading to an increased risk of fire and an enormous feeling of insecurity,” Pommée said. “The situation had spiralled out of control in recent weeks.”

Written by Helen Lyons