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Electrical outlets in Brussels Central Station locked to prevent public use
Almost all the electrical outlets installed in the walls of public areas of Brussels' Central Station have been locked in what local associations suspect is a move to discourage homeless people.
“I discovered this recently and I found it to be scandalous,” said Jose Parades, a member of the Brussels union of homeless people. “For me, and I may be wrong, this move was designed to keep homeless people away from the inside of the station.
“Before the outlets were locked, I saw homeless people charging their mobile phones, their only means of communication to find accommodation,” he added. “This is also especially important to keep in touch with your family, to send messages, to communicate, to stay in touch with your social worker.
"In times of Covid, they were told to use their mobile phone and communicate via WhatsApp or send SMS to contact their social worker. But if they can't charge their phones, the homeless can no longer contact their case officers.”
Staff at the station confirmed when asked that the locking of the electrical outlets was a measure to prevent homeless people from using power outlets, because it caused safety issues. These plugs are mainly used by maintenance personnel and for equipment used to clean the station floors.
An official response from Belgian national rail operator SNCB reaffirmed the safety concerns but avoided stigmatising a particular category of people.
"The electrical devices at stations are dedicated to the needs directly related to train travel,” a spokesperson said. “However, in recent weeks, staff at Brussels Central station have been confronted on a daily basis with misuse not related to rail transport, such as groups of people using these outlets with extension cords to, among other things, broadcast music.
"In order to prevent any risk, SNCB has provisionally prohibited public access to power outlets at Brussels Central station. Safety at stations and trains is SNCB's top priority."
Two power outlets remain unlocked, but difficult to locate, in the Brussels Central ticket office.