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Police raid Brussels migrant arts centre Globe Aroma

15:27 12/02/2018
Cultural organisationsare furious and politicians are baffled by a police crackdown last week that saw migrants arrested at a non-profit arts centre in downtown Brussels

Police raided the Globe Aroma open art studio on Rue de la Braie in the Dansaert area of Brussels on Friday afternoon, detaining seven immigrants. The studio offers a place for newcomers in Brussels to practice and perform their work, be it painting, music, dance or another activity.

Globe Aroma said that some 25 agents were involved in the raid and that staff was told that it was an investigation into the operations of the non-profit. But the centre’s director, Koen Verbert, said that police forced he and other staff and volunteers into the street.

“They were extremely aggressive,” he told Bruzz. “And some plain-clothed police did not identify themselves.” One migrant was punched, while another was pushed to the ground, he reported.

Seven immigrants were taken into custody. Five of them were released with an order to leave the country. The other two have been taken to the detention centre in Steenokkerzeel.

 “It was a multidisciplinary inspection,” said a police spokesperson on Saturday. “The finance ministry, the regional labour inspectorate and the federal police were all present. During this kind of procedure, we inspect the accounting, the staff policies, the work permits, that sort of thing.”

‘If this was routine, then we live in a police state’

Globe Aroma has existed for 10 years and is supported by both Brussels and Flemish authorities. “If this was a routine inspection of the management of a non-profit organisation, then we live in a police state,” Verbert told Bruzz today. “The people we work with were beaten up and handcuffed for no reason whatsoever. That cannot be allowed.”

Brussels minister Pascal Smet was behind the approval of subsidies for Globe Aroma when he served in the Flemish government between 2009 and 2014. “I don’t quite understand why and how it was targeted,” he told Bruzz. “Globe Aroma is an open studio where professional artists work with newcomers. In the super-diverse kind of city that Brussels is, it is crucial that there are socio-cultural organisations that support newcomers and can offer a safe haven for creativity.”

Flemish culture minister Sven Gatz, meanwhile, told the news source that, while inspection agencies have the right to carry out surprise visits, it should be done in a way that is “not so brutal and violent as was the case at Globe Aroma. A line was crossed here”.

Many local arts organisations, including KVS and Kaaitheater, have spoken out in protest at the event, and Verbert promises a protest action in the coming week.

Written by Lisa Bradshaw