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North Station migrants moved to homeless shelters

17:15 17/05/2019

The approximately 200 migrants that have been staying inside the lower level of North Station have all been moved to shelters, following talks among authorities in the Brussels region and the federal government.

The authorities, who had begun discussing a solution for the situation months ago, were under intense pressure over the last two week after both De Lijn and Stib transport operators moved their bus stops away from the station – De Lijn for the second time.

Migrants awaiting residency papers and transmigrants had been essentially living inside the station next to the tunnel where busses stop for more than a year. Because of a lack of toilets, refrigeration and other facilities, the situation had become intolerable. Public transport staff have longed complained about the garbage and smell in the area and said that passengers were nervous about waiting for busses.

The migrants were moved to various homeless shelters last night by community organisations following talks, led by migration secretary Maggie De Block (Open VLD). Police will check the area today to make sure that anyone still left is taken to a shelter.

Fedasil on site

Workers with Fedasil, the federal asylum agency, will be present at the shelters to work with each migrant individually. De Block said that she has been working on the situation with Brussels regional ministers since she took over her old post from Theo Francken when N-VA walked out of the federal government coalition in December.

“I am very happy with this important breakthrough,” said De Block. “We are giving North Station back to the commuters. A train station is not an asylum centre. The circumstances were not humane, not for the transmigrants and not for the transport users and workers.”

The Citizen’s Platform for Refugee Support is content with this solution. “This is what we have always asked for,” said Mehdi Kassou of the platform. “Give transmigrants the information they need and a decent place, away from the police, who they distrust. We are glad that Maggie De Block understands this.”

However, he said, the solution is not structural. “This is a temporary solution. I’m not sure that we can work like this for more than two or three weeks.”

As for Stib, their buses will be back in the tunnel by tomorrow morning. De Lijn said they hoped to move back to the normal stops this weekend as well, though it could be Monday morning.

Photo: While the camping migrants are gone, there is still clean-up to be done at North Station
©Dirk Waem/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw