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North Station situation out of control as migrant numbers grow
Since Brussels’ winter shelters have closed, hundreds of transmigrants – people passing through Belgium on their way to somewhere else – have been living in North Station. Brussels minister Pascal Smet has announced that the winter shelter in Haren will be re-opened to help deal with the problem.
The winter shelters in Brussels closed on the last day of March, and since then about 150 people have been staying at North Station. The station closes between 1.00 and 4.00, at which point people move outside and sleep in front of the south entrance.
The Citizen’s Platform for Refugee Support is helping by providing food, but the station has no services and is becoming overrun with garbage and the smell of urine. The Citizen’s Platform, created to help refugees and other migrants who were previously living in Maximilien Park to find housing, have asked the Brussels region and the federal government for funding for a migrant centre to provide shelter and information.
According to Smet (SP.A), this is the federal government’s responsibility, and Brussels will insist that they pay for the efforts that will be made. “We are not going to wait on the federal government because this is a distressing humanitarian situation that has to be taken care of,” Smet said yesterday evening, “but we expect that the federal government step up and take some responsibility. It is unacceptable that people are sleeping on the ground in the streets and stations of Brussels.”
Francken: ‘Brussels will get nothing’
“He can count on zero euros,” migration state secretary Theo Francken (N-VA) immediately responded. “I have always been against this migration hub that Brussels apparently wants to be. The only one who would be satisfied with that is the mayor of Calais. If Brussels wants to be a kind of safe haven for illegal transmigrants, then they should go ahead, but not at the expense of the federal government.”
Public transport authority De Lijn, meanwhile, is threatening to stop servicing the station if it is not cleaned up. The bus stops are located in the tunnel under the station. “I sympathise with the situation these people are in, but there is so much trash, and people relieve themselves here,” a bus driver told VRT. “It’s one of Brussels main transport stations, not an asylum centre.”
A spokesperson for De Lijn said that passengers were starting to avoid the stop. “They are moving on to the Place Rogier stop because it doesn’t seem safe at North Station anymore.”