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Brussels plans to open second safe drugs space
Brussels is aiming to open a second safe space where drug users can safely administer drugs to help combat problems on the street, Brussels health minister Alain Maron has announced.
The first site, called GATE, was opened last year on Rue de Woeringen near Brussels-Midi station.
The second is planned to open in the north of Brussels, near Ribaucourt or Yser metro stations, where drug use is particularly prevalent, Maron said in response to a question from Socialist MP Els Rochette (one.brussels/Vooruit party).
This second space will be a separate entity from the large centre planned in 2026 for the Avenue du Port by Brussels canal.
Rochette said she was pleased about the diverse measures taken to address drug-related issues such as homelessness, fights and streets littered with needles.
But she said that Brussels must collaborate more with the federal government, "that must take a more prominent role immediately".
She added: "Brussels cannot tackle the challenges of drugs on its own, yet it has been neglected by the federal government."
According to Bruzz, the situation around Place Sainctelette has become particulary tense. Residents said they never knew what they would find when they walked out of their doors: “I do not know what to tell my little girl,” one young father said.
“The addiction problem is first and foremost bad for the users themselves. Above all we need to invest in counselling. Local residents also demand a humane solution,” Rochette said.
One such solution providing medical and psychosocial counselling is the SubLINK project, launched this spring by the Brussels government.
This scheme to help homeless drug users in metro stations is a collaboration between the Stib public transport network, homelessness charity Samusocial and three Brussels organisations helping drug users: Diogènes, Lama and Transit.
The first phase of the project focused on Porte de Namur metro station and was a great success, Rochette said.
Maron has indicated that SubLINK teams have also helped in 11 other metro and two railway stations. Since 6 July, hotel accommodation has also been provided to house people sleeping rough in metro stations.
However, these measures are not popular with some MPs, who demand tougher action against drug users.
Mathias Vanden Borre (N-VA) said the new drug user spaces would “send a signal that drugs are OK and that we in Brussels are taking steps towards legalisation”.
He also criticised the plan to introduce a “tolerance zone” 500 metres around these drug spaces: “This goes against the federal government’s plans to introduce instant fines for drug users, so police can handle the cases themselves.”
Centre-right MP Bianca Debaets (CD&V) also disagreed that additional user spaces would stop the drug problem.
She called for “preventive measures to prevent addiction, intensification of the fight against drug traffickers and more help accompanying people in rehab so they can regain control of their lives,” adding: “If you just offer drug addicts clean needles, this will basically not solve anything.”