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Wooden figures across Flanders represent refugees who drowned at sea
Residents of Brussels and cities across Flanders will find footprints painted on pavements and squares today. Following the prints will lead to little wooden statuettes that depict a figure with a satchel.
Every figure represents a human being who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this year – about 900. Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen (Flemish Refugee Action), which is behind the campaign, had to add more figures to the planned number just this week as a boat went down off the coast of Libya, killing at least 40 people.
The organisation, which works to help refugees settle in Belgium, is carrying out today’s action in Leuven, Mechelen, Brussels, Ghent, Genk and Bredene. “We want passers-by to pause and reflect on the difficult journey made by people who are fleeing war, violence and persecution,” says Flemish Refugee Action spokesperson Eef Heylighen. “This year alone, 900 people have died in the Mediterranean.”
Leuven is at the centre of the action today, as 900 of the wooden figures, representing the total number of drowning victims, are placed on Martelarenplein, opposite the train station. A refugee from Iraq will be on the square with Flemish Refugee Action to describe his own harrowing journey in 2013 to the press.
The effort is being carried out today in the run-up to the Refugee Walk, which sees thousands of volunteers across Brussels and Flanders walk 40 kilometres to raise money for the organisation. “It’s important that we show solidarity with these people, which can be done in many ways, including taking part in the Refugee Walk,” says Heylighen.
This year the walk takes off from Leuven. Those who take part will receive one of the wooden figures. Anyone can sign up for the walk, which takes place on 29 September.
Photo: Bert Blondeel/Flemish Refugee Action