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Squat cleared in Brussels: One body found, multiple cases of tuberculosis

08:28 16/02/2023

After clearing a squat on the Rue des Palais in the Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek, authorities discovered a dead body and multiple cases of tuberculosis and scabies among the residents.

The Brussels prosecutor's office is unable to provide further information as to the deceased person at this time, but confirmed that a body had been found.

“It’s terrible that someone died in the squat in the Rue des Palais,” state secretary for asylum and migration Nicole de Moor (CD&V) said on Twitter.

“My condolences to the loved ones. I am following the case closely to know the full facts. We are in contact with Brussels authorities and police.”

Squats are not uncommon in Brussels, where the migrant population is large and housing is expensive.

Emergency services first arrived at this particular squat due to a fire, which is said to be unrelated to the dead body discovered upon arrival.

The premises were evacuated and the inhabitants, said to be asylum seekers, were put on the street with much of their belongings still inside while the death was investigated.

Around 190 migrants were given a medical examination, which uncovered several cases of scabies, diphtheria and tuberculosis.

The examination took place in a "neutral zone" at the Crossing sports stadium. Three people with tuberculosis were transferred to Saint-Pierre hospital and three other people were also taken away, one of them with severe scabies, one with diphtheria and one with post-traumatic stress.

Scabies was diagnosed in 25 asylum seekers overall, who were given treatment on the spot. Following their medical examination, the asylum seekers will be transferred via bus to three Brussels reception centres.

But while three buses were set aside for this purpose, additional asylum seekers arrived at the the point of pick-up, bringing the total number from 190 to around 500, all hoping to get shelter.

Inhabitants of the squat where the dead body was found were given priority, but even some of them remained homeless following the eviction of the squat and it is not yet clear whether a housing solution will be found for all its residents, Bruzz reports.

Belgium has been struggling with a migration crisis, and even with the creation of additional housing and reception points, there are still more asylum seekers than there are places for them to stay.

This is one of the reasons many seek shelter in abandoned buildings, which are then referred to as squats. Others live in tents or sleep on the streets or in metro stations while they await their chance to submit an application for asylum.

This particular squat was evacuated so that the Brussels region can renovate it in order to make it more suitable for proper housing.

Generally, squats are found in buildings that are old and dangerous, lacking heat and plumbing among other basic amenities.

The Brussels region has been funding a "humanitarian hub" since 2015, where migrants can charge their phones, shower and get help from medical or legal experts regardless of their residence status.

Residence status is also not a consideration for the services of homeless organisation Samusocial and certain Red Cross centres.

Written by Helen Lyons